RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — It is rehearsal night at the RYSE Center, and the Richmond-based non-profit is hosting its own version of Coachella called Rychella. The idea is for teenagers like Keylem Ortiz to have fun while learning how to plan an environmentally sustainable, and socio-economically friendly music festival. Ortiz and her friends are hanging paper flowers on a student designed photo booth backdrop.
“We’ve been making paper flowers for the last three days,” said Ortiz. “And we opened them up today.”
The teens are having fun “their way,” and that’s the goal because everything about the RYSE Center is inspired by the young people it serves.
“What we heard was a cry for adults to listen,” explained RYSE co-founder Kimberly Aceves-Iniguez. “Because I feel like what young people were saying is yes we are dealing with severe trauma in our community but we actually have an idea of the solutions and can anybody just invite us to the table?”
Aceves-Iniguez and co-founder Kanwarpal Dhaliwal have known each other for decades. After a stint together at another non-profit, they saw young people in Richmond looking for a safe space.
“We are in a community where there have been decades of under-investment, “explained Dhaliwal. “[The teens] are living in conditions of what we understand to be atmospheric trauma. Really living in a community and a time where ever they go they are just not sure how they are going to be treated.”
So the two created RYSE. It opened in 2008 and since then approximately 4,000 young people have come through its doors to receive services like clinical counseling, college support and cultural programming.
“Our programs are platforms to build loving, healing relationships so that we build loving,’ said Dhaliwal. “Healing community that can build loving, healing systems.”
Dalia Ramos came to the RYSE Center ten years ago as a teenager. Now she works here.
“I feel like I really didn’t have anyone to show me there is something to value until I started coming to RYSE,” explained Ramos. “This is a very welcoming like space that you should feel safe to like try anything that you like want to try.
It’s that sense of welcoming 16-year-old Geo Jones appreciates.
“I am able to express myself, said Jones. “I see others who look like me, go through the same struggles as me and who are also fighting for the same rights and freedom.”
Aceves-Iniguez and Dhaliwal say they feel privileged to serve Richmond’s young people.
“We see them as amazing human beings,” said Aceves-Iniguez. “And no matter where they are at, that is where we will start.”