California Freedom Summer

Young people have a lot at stake when it comes to the future of their communities and our democracy as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic, recent movements for racial justice, and climate disasters have heightened the urgency to ensure that young people play an active, informed role in decision-making processes that have serious consequences for our collective future. California Freedom Summer (CFS), a participatory-action research project that will engage University of California undergraduate students, helps address important questions and debates related to recent historical developments.

Through university-community partnerships, CFS trained one hundred and fourteen college and high school students as Summer 2022 fellows and youth action researchers in 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations to mentor other young leaders, conduct voter education, and support grassroots campaigns. These student leaders also collected, analyzed, and disseminated data that contributes to academic research and informs youth-led efforts.

The project included a Winter/Summer 2-unit independent study and Spring 2022 Ethnic Studies coursework to prepare UC students for summer internships. Coursework oriented students to the historical, economic, social, and political dynamics shaping outcomes for racially diverse youth, while also equipping them with applied research skills to examine voter outreach and grassroots organizing efforts. Student training was conducted in coordination with community partners, including YO! California and Power CA. 

Collectively, summer fellows registered over five thousand young people throughout California, hosted seven Youth Leadership Conferences and two community concerts featuring Las Cafeteras and Snow the Product, among other musical groups to inspire young people toward civic engagement. 

CFS was led by Dr. Veronica Terriquez, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Director, and involved collaboration with the other ethnic studies research centers within the UCLA Institute of American Cultures, as well as faculty at other UC campuses, faculty at community colleges, and public high school teachers.

The program aimed to: (1) promote youths’ leadership in their own communities; (2) strengthen linkages among high schools, community colleges, and the UC system; (3) enhance the capacity of civic engagement organizations; (4) increase voter turnout in high poverty communities; and (5) contribute to research on youths’ civic engagement as their communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

California Freedom Summer will return Winter 2024. For more information, contact Eder Gaona- Macedo, CSRC Senior Officer of Community Engagement, at

Community Partners
Allan Hancock Community College 
College of the Desert 
College of the Sequoias 
Oxnard College
James S. Bower Foundation   
The California Endowment 
Latino Community Foundation
The McCune Foundation      
Stuart Foundation   
The Edwin and Jeanne Woods Family Foundation