Youth Speaks Out Grand Opening, Friday March 25, 5-7pm

(Exhibit runs March 18 – April 12th)
Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Rd, Palo Alto 94303
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Give Voice 2016

A stunning exhibit of written, visual and performance art. (Over 200 students in classes at Gunn and Paly answer the prompt, “What it’s like to be me.”)

Youth Speaks Out is in its fifth year as an arts program at PALY and Gunn High. YSO was formed as a response to the 2010 Palo Alto Youth Forum, after six students died by suicide within eighteen months. At the forum, teens asked to engage with the community on a range of issues that enable youth well being. One request was for committed adults to work with youth to make a safe, recurring, artistic venue for them to create, display and share their artwork, so that the community can witness directly important aspects of their inner lives. YSO was created to provide that venue, expertise, and support. YSO students are in a class for a semester during the school year.

YSO’s mission statement now includes (3) factors: 1) To give students voice; 2) to provide adult arts expertise in ‘Accompaniment’ with youth; and 3) to build compassionate community. We achieve these goals by:

1. Making a safe place for our students to express their inner lives through various rigorous PAUSD arts curricula and related courses of study in the PAUSD classroom.

2. Closely engaging arts professionals/teachers with students to create art and share expertise and perspectives.

3. Bringing local students together across ethnic, cultural and socio economic demographics, to share artists, resources and experiences – thus building community, and broadening exposure to life experiences of strength, resilience and compassion. This is done by creating together, in close proximity with those outside one’s network, over the course of the school year.


YSO has grown about 45 % each year, from 2011, starting with (84) participating students, (1) PAUSD painting instructor from Gunn High. This year, we have already engaged over (800) students in ongoing workshops at Gunn, Paly, and the LGTBQ organization, Outlet, at CHAC in Mountain View, including students from Alta Vista and M.A. . We have additional workshops pending. We have (12) teachers this year, and have expanded from the visual arts classroom to include classes in journalism, theater, social justice and Black Student Union, and in addition to our painting, photography, music, IEP (‘special needs’) and English class/ Gunn Poetry Slam Club.

YSO has had school wide poetry slams at both Gunn and Paly, before the entire school, in preparation for the March 25th opening and slam, which brings in over (300) guest for the grand opening, as well as many hundreds of viewers during the month long exhibit.

Local Collaboration

New Voices for Youth : YSO PAUSD students are collaborating with NV4Y( a local organization mentoring minority teens in video documentation). YSO brought these students together to capture the poetry events, do interviews and capture the grand opening, March 25, 2016. NV4Y teens have filmed poetry sessions that occur in after school hours.

OUTLET: YSO came together in February with the local LGTBQ support organization, OUTLET, to do a poetry workshop with their participating youth.


Palo Alto Unified School District, Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, Partners in Education, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Acknowledge Alliance, Palo Alto Art Center, Midtown Realty, and a host of local businesses.

Youth Speaks Out Board of Directors

  • Susan L. Usman, President, PAUSD PTA (With YSO since 2012).
  • Becky Cohn Vargas, Noted Educator, Director of Not In Our Schools’, whose tenets supporting youth identity, inclusion and well being informs the YSO program curriculum.
  • Ranjeeta Pal, Accurate Accounting Corp.
  • Carolyn Digovich, Executive Director since YSO’s inception in 2011, has lived/worked in Palo Alto since 1988; served (4) years on PAUSD PTA Exec. Council, and is a former state artist-in-the-schools coordinator for the Artist Foundation, in Boston, MA.

    Advisory Board

    • Deanna Messinger, YSO Co Founder; PAUSD Arts Faculty, Gunn High
    • Margo Wixson, Paly Arts Faculty
    • Becky Beacom, Manager, Health Ed., Palo Alto Medical Foundation
    • Professor Lee Herzenberg, Genetics Chair; Stanford University
    • Karen Rudolph, Corporate Counsel, Rudolph & Sletton

    Youth Speaks Out
    PO Box 61215, Palo Alto, CA. 94306
    Executive Director, Carolyn Digovich