Youth Will Transitions its Leadership to Unique Youth-Led Model

We’re putting the new model into play! Youth Will will transition its leadership from an executive director-led model to a new youth-led leadership model becoming the only organization in San Diego County to feature this new model. To help support the unique leadership and elevate Youth Will work, we hired three paid adult mentors to provide guidance and consultation in three programmatic areas: 

  • Youth Prioritization Mentor: Helps foster relationships with politicians and movement workers and supports development of advocacy strategies with the goal of developing county-wide policy and budget priorities
  • Youth Power-Building  Mentor: Provides support and guidance to youth leadership in their efforts to create a regional cooperative network of youth power
  • Development Mentor: Monitors finances and ensures the stability of the organization while guiding youth leaders to identify and pursue grant and fundraising opportunities

Since its creation,Youth Will has advocated for youth development and prioritization. Part of that initiative means reshaping the way young people are involved in policy and decision-making processes. Youth leadership will bring the nonprofit’s intentions into actualization by putting young people at the forefront of the organization’s decision making.

This change in leadership comes at a critical time following former Executive Director Sean Elo-Rivera’s election to San Diego City Council. 

Early Success: 

  • Examples of youth-led leadership have already proved successful at Youth Will, as seen through its Emergency Resource Ambassador program, funded by the County’s Rapid Response Grant. This year the program, made up of 10 youth ambassadors, successfully contacted 25,727 community members through social media, email and texting campaigns. As a result, more than 500 youth were provided with resources they did not know were offered by the city, county, state, and federal government. 
  • We were recently awarded additional funding from the Aspen Institute to continue this work in 2021 to ensure low-income youth have access to resources throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

About Us: 

  • Warsan Artan, Lead Youth Organizer 
    • I am 24 years old and have been head of operations and youth organizing at Youth Will since May 2019. I came to the U.S. in 2006 and currently live in La Mesa, CA. I oversee all efforts to empower youth. These include developing and improving youth programming; leading financial, funding and policy related initiatives; identifying and fostering community relationships; and guiding the organization’s key messaging. My motivation to lead youth is best expressed through the quote, “Nothing for us, without us.” 
  • Safia Haidari, Youth Organizer
    • I joined Youth Will as a leading organizer in February 2020. I grew up in San Diego as a child of immigrants from Afghanistan. After graduating from SDSU with a bachelor’s in Social Science, I started volunteering and interning with local community based organizations. This experience allowed me to see first-hand the role that community organizing plays upon advocating for marginalized populations and pressuring elected officials to push for progressive change. My role includes engaging more youth across the region. In addition, I facilitate the campaigns and programs that allow youth to advocate for widespread social change. I am passionate about providing young people the tools needed to create the communities they wish to see. 

Adult Mentors: 

  • Khea Pollard – Youth Prioritization Mentor, Justice Program Manager of National Association of Counties, (NACo) Washington DC
    • Khea Pollard brings years of experience serving County governments across the United States. Her work focuses on the intersection of behavioral health, criminal justice reform and equity. Prior to her role at NACo, Khea worked extensively on issues pertaining to children and youth, child welfare, juvenile justice, safety and eligibility programs, as the Health and Human Services Policy Advisor and Community Representative for County Supervisor Greg Cox. 
  • Paul Watson – Youth Power-Building Mentor, President and CEO of The Global Arc
    • Paul Watson began his career servicing youth at the age of 17. He is the former executive director of the Training and Research Institute for Residential Youth Centers in New Haven, CT; San Diego Youth and Community Services; and Watson and Associates International. He has a demonstrated history of work in community development, youth development, child welfare, and organizational development. 


“This change in leadership will achieve what Youth Will has always aimed for. Youth will not only be empowered to fight for what they believe in; but they will lead the fight. With many challenges left within our social structure, there could not be better leaders than Warsan and Safia to lead the organization. It has been a pleasure to have worked side by side with amazing youth, and I will continue to advocate for their prioritization as a friend and ally,” said Sean Elo-Rivera, Executive Director of Youth Will. 

“I wholeheartedly advocate for the involvement of youth in decision-making which makes me extremely proud to work for an organization that echoes youth presence. The more we expand the involvement of youth and put youth leaders at the face of the organization, the better we can serve them,” said Warsan Artan, Youth Will Lead Organizer. 

“The youth voice is crucial to our overall effectiveness as an organization. This is a huge step forward for not only myself and Warsan, but for all youth. Starting with this organizational change, we can better effect structural change on a city and county level,” said Safia Haidari, Youth Will Organizer. 

“Youth have shown us time and again how capable they are of impacting change. Imagine the greatness that will come as a result of putting youth in charge of decision making and organizational leadership. At Youth Will, this is not a new concept, but making it our official model says something powerful, and it’s our hope that other organizations will follow,” said Margie de Ruyter, Youth Will Board Co-Chair.