Completed YouthFirst Service Projects
See a list of our past advocacy projects and service-learning events below. Looking for a way to make an impact in your community? Visit our events page to see what teen service opportunities are happening now!
2021 – 22:
Apples & Honey: Passing on Sweet Traditions with Children
Every year at Rosh Hashanah, JFCS brings families together to help assemble our High Holiday Bags. This year, we had young children learn about the mitzvah of gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness) as they decorated the bags that hold all the Rosh Hashanah treats. Through this act of service, we showed JFCS clients that they are not alone!
Biking to Protect the Bay: Taking a Clean-Air Approach to Commuting
Through a carbon-neutral ride around Shoreline Park, teens learned about our beautiful surroundings and how to navigate it in an environmentally friendly way with stops along their ride.
A Ukrainian Picnic Seder
Teens from around the San Mateo area lifted up the stories and identities of Ukrainian-Americans in their community. Just like the Passover seders in our homes, everyone was invited to share in food, story and song. Unlike the Passover seder though, we focused in on the current experience of Ukrainians who are not yet free.
Finding a College Community: Knowing Yourself and Choosing a School
One of the most important aspects of the college experience revolves around the connections you make. But how do you create, foster, and feel connection on campus? We heard from our incredible panel of current college students from around the country who shared tips about choosing a college with community that fits your needs and interests, and offered valuable insight into how to weigh what college campuses have to offer to help you build networks and community. Our panelists included students from a range of schools, including private, public, small, and large.
Breaking the Silence: A Night of Stories, Connection, and LGBTQ+ Activism
At this celebration of the voices of LGBTQ+ youth and the resilience of our community, teens from across the Bay Area gathered to express their stories through art, music, poetry, or any other way they choose. In the spirit of embodying the Jewish value of Betzelem Elohim (the belief that all people are created in the divine image) we heard from leaders in the SF LGBTQ+ community, held space for teens to share their stories through performance, and participated in community building activities based in social justice through a Jewish lens. In addition, we participated in collective action to combat recent anti-LGBT legislation.
Tzedakah Sandwiches: Feeding Our Unhoused Neighbors
Teen volunteers in Marin made PB&J sandwiches that were distributed to our neighbors in San Rafael who struggle with housing and food security. We learned together about the different types of homelessness that exist in our community and ways to address this complex community issue.
Bare Necessities: Collecting Needed Supplies for Unhoused Youth
As youth ourselves, we find it powerful to do whatever we can to offer support to people our age that are currently facing homelessness. We collected donations for unhoused youth being served at Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco. By collecting donations that are top needs (men’s boxer shorts, hoodies and sweatpants, and toothpaste) we embodied and held up the important Jewish value of Kavod (dignity). At this event we collected, sorted, and packed donated items as well as learned and reflected deeply about this issue by discussing first-person testimony.
Taking Care of our Parks/Taking Care of Ourselves: Building a Healthy Bridge from Middle to High School
8th graders learned from YouthFirst Teen Leaders about how to manage the stresses of starting high school. The Jewish value of Shmirat Hagoof teaches us the importance of caring for our bodies and minds. At this event we learned techniques for self-care and maintaining wellness, spent time enjoying the outdoors, and participated in community service with the SF Rec and Park Department.
Biking to Protect the Bay: Taking a Clean-Air Approach to Starting High School
Palo Alto Impact Year leaders went on a carbon-neutral ride along the Bayland Trail to learn about our environment while enjoying an afternoon ride along the San Francisco Bay. Stops were located every 1/2-1 mile with information to take with them about our beautiful surroundings and how to navigate them in an environmentally friendly way. We finished at Shoreline Park where we did a quick clean-up of the area while sharing a snack together and meeting other rising high schoolers.
Youth Advocacy Day 2022
This was an opportunity to advocate at a state level on issues you care about. Youth Advocacy Day was for teens to meet with decision makers in the California Legislature and share with them where they stood on legislation that will affect Californians far into the future. We virtually met with representatives and their staff in 15 – 30 minute blocks.
Advocate for Composting in Marin County High Schools
Passionate about tackling our world’s climate crisis, YouthFirst Impact Year leaders engaged in shomrei adamah (protecting the earth) by advocating for more composting in Marin alongside other high school students, joining the Marin Zero Waste School Program.
The Great Purim Bake Off: A Friendly Baking Contest & Addressing Food Insecurity
At this interactive baking and service-learning event celebrating all this Purim, teens from across the Bay Area learned how to bake hamantaschen, shared their unique bakes and honored this holiday’s mitzvah of mishloach manot (sending of portions), and made Purim holiday cards to benefit JFCS food bank recipients.
Passover Holiday Cards for Jewish Families and Seniors in Need
Every year, JFCS provides Passover goods to Jewish families and seniors across the Bay Area who are unable to access these essential supplies to observe this important holiday. Many of the recipients of these Passover bags seek community connection and have experienced social isolation due to the pandemic. YouthFirst teens added warmth and holiday wishes by making holiday cards for hundreds of JFCS clients to receive this Pesach.
Putting Youth First: Support Children in the Canal Neighborhood
Children have been one of the most vulnerable populations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. From learning loss to hindrance in social-emotional skills, children in our community need joy and support now more than ever. YouthFirst teens created storybooks and gift bags to benefit families with preschool-aged children from the Canal Neighborhood.
Plant People: A Tu B’Shevat Hike & Citizen Data Collection
Celebrate Tu B’Shevat—the Jewish New Year for the Trees—by joining the YouthFirst community at Ring Mountain! We will learn about local flora and contribute to essential citizen science data collection as a way to protect native species. Come connect with the trees, plants, earth, and each other on this teen-led nature walk.
Banquet for the Bees
Join other teens at the Oshman Family JCC’s Mitzvah Day for a community-wide day of Tikkun Olam (repair of the world) as part of a national day of service to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Learn about our environment while making fun and easy projects that help the birds and the bees! Participants will make wildflower seed bombs, and bee bomb pollinators to help mother nature and some of her littlest helpers thrive.
Palo Alto Teens Take Action: Roundtable with Assemblymember Marc Berman
Zoom into our teen roundtable discussion with 5 exceptional Palo Alto teens together with Palo Alto Assemblymember Marc Berman! Excited to continue his mission to involve young people in politics, Assemblymember Berman will be answering questions from local teens inspired by Jewish Values of shomrei adamah (protecting the environment) and sh’mirat hagoof (taking care of the body). Zoom participants will be able to submit questions and comments in the chat. Do you want to cheer on your local teens and have a chance to take action locally regarding issues that impact your community?
Poetry Evening! Connecting Generations with Poetry and Conversation
When we connect with seniors, we embody the important Jewish value of L’dor v’dor (from generation to generation), so prepare a short story or poem that you either love or wrote, and join us for this warm-hearted gathering. Invite your grandparents or multi-generational family and friends to participate and share poetry too! We are excited to bring teens together for this event, and to create a video compilation of the readings to be shared with residents of Rhoda Goldman Plaza.
Calling All Green Thumbs: Working with Our Community and a San Francisco Gardener
Have you ever wondered what it takes to keep the 1,017 acres of Golden Gate Park beautiful? On this Jewish holiday of Tu B’shvat, when we celebrate the “birthday of trees,” join YouthFirst teens and an official San Francisco gardener to roll up our sleeves and beautify our beloved park.
Talk to the Animals
Since the pandemic, thousands of animals have been rescued and adopted to provide emotional support for people of all ages. As the Jewish concept of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim demands that we take animal suffering seriously, we will support the efforts of Animal Assisted Happiness, a working farm full of furry and feathered friends whose only mission is to make people smile.
Food for Flight: DIY Bird Feeders
Did you know that 1 in 8 bird species are threatened with extinction? Marin County is home to more than 150 species, including some rare and exotic ones! Teens learned about our region’s bird populations, how to protect them, and made biodegradable bird feeders to take home as a way to practice the Jewish value of showing compassion toward animals (lo tzaar baalei chayim).
Festival of Fat: Chanukah Virtual Game Night & Advocacy Event
Bay Area teens celebrated FAT, OIL, and FRIED foods at a virtual Chanukah-themed game night, and learned what Judaism says about diet culture and how to advocate for Shmirat Haguf, the mitzvah of protecting the body.
Shake off the Stress
As finals week approached, Palo Alto teens considered healthy ways to approach stressful events, while practicing Shmirat HaGuf, the Jewish value for taking care of your body
Wrap it Up, Share the Love
With the excitement of the holiday season, teens helped sort and wrap gifts for families struggling from financial, food and housing insecurity, in partnership with the Family Giving Tree, and brought the practice of Gemilut Chasadim, or “Acts of Lovingkindness” to life.
Tiny Home Big Impact 2
We rolled up our sleeves, picked up tools and got to work! The Tiny House Village for Bay Area youth facing homelessness is a project by Youth Spirit Artworks, who we were thrilled to partner with for this event.
Period Plight: Pushing for Menstrual Equity
At this unique event, teens addressed the issue of Period Poverty, the term used to refer to inequities related to menstruation. In addition to donating menstrual products, they learned about local efforts supporting a huge range of women in need while practicing the value of Kevod Habriyot—the honor and dignity of all people.
Playthings for Pooches
Teens embodied the Jewish law that prohibits against suffering of living animals by creating durable dog toys for Pets in Need, a Bay Area animal shelter focusing on finding forever homes for dogs, cats, bunnies, and other domestic animals.
Farm Volunteer Day
Digging into the soil with weeding, harvesting, and helping get the farm ready for the upcoming school year, teens supported Redwood High School’s sustainable agriculture program. They also learned about its sustainable methods for growing food and how these practices align with the Jewish agricultural tradition of Shmitah.
Food To Go with IsraAID: Food Distribution to Families Facing Food Insecurity
“All who are hungry, come and eat”. YouthFirst Teens and other teen volunteers embodied this important Jewish value by taking part in IsraAID’s efforts to provide for the staggering 1 in 4 families in California who are currently struggling with a lack of access to food.
Laptops For a Cause with Hewlett-Packard HP Refresh
Teens helped their community do a meaningful act of tzedakah (charity) by collecting and cleaning no longer needed laptops for HP Refresh, which provided them to the 1 in 3 students who don’t currently have access to a computer and internet connection necessary for their education.
2020 – 21:
Earth Day Beach Clean-Up
YouthFirst and Bay Area teens joined together to clean up our beloved Bay Area beaches and to celebrate more than 50 years of Earth Day by embodying the Jewish value of bal tashchit (do not destroy/waste)!
Re-Imagining Juvenile Justice: Understanding Changes in Youth Crime in SF Through Testimony & Discussion
In this powerful online event, teens heard first-hand testimony about the juvenile justice system in San Francisco which is currently undergoing revolutionary change. Teens imagined a new future for youth at risk and cultivated a better understanding of how to take action on this highly complex, racial, and systemic issue.
Café by the Bay: Holocaust Survivors and Teens Share Family Stories
JFCS regularly hosts afternoon social and educational programs for Holocaust survivors called Cafe by the Bay. For this special interactive storytelling event, teens brought a photo, an heirloom, or an object that had special meaning to them and shared stories and laughter with this remarkable group of seniors.
Sharing Poetry with Seniors: Teens and Seniors Gathering for Connection
A multi-generational virtual gathering of teens and seniors from San Francisco’s 30th Street Senior Center. Teens and seniors shared a poem or short story around the theme of L’dor v’dor (from generation to generation)—something that was passed down to you from a previous generation, or that you hope to tell your own grandchildren one day.
A Day in the Life: Support Neighbors Without Housing
In partnership with Jewish Teen Collective Marin, YouthFirst teens collected items from this wish list to benefit local shelter St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin. The items were assembled into hygiene kits and distributed alongside the shelter’s food service. At the Zoom event, teens heard from special guests who have experienced housing insecurity and discussed building a space of empathy, connection, and action.
A Semi-sweet Chocolate Seder: A Chocolate Journey from Slavery to Freedom
Impact Year teens across the Bay Area joined together for a tasty adventure through the Passover Haggadah and the story of Exodus. We explored contemporary plagues of modern slavery, un-ethical farming practices, and child labor. We learned how we can help end these practices while celebrating together with chocolate treats!
Tiny Home, Big Impact: Help Build a Tiny House Village for Unhoused Youth
We rolled up our sleeves, picked up tools and got to work! The Tiny House Village for Bay Area youth facing homelessness is a project by Youth Spirit Artworks, who we were thrilled to partner with for this event.
Treat Yo’Self: Collecting favorite comfort foods for families in need
We learned about how food insecurity impacts the way people think about food, and the difference between food for survival vs. food for ”oneg” (Hebrew for pleasure). We shared with families in need by buying a few extra bags of our “favorite snacks” for our food drive.
Flashmob for First Responders: Bringing Joy & Gratitude to COVID-19 Hospital Workers
The Jewish value of hakarat hatov (recognizing the good) ensures that we take notice of our blessings during hard times. It is also the idea that we must cultivate a practice of gratitude in our lives every day! Amidst this harsh pandemic, we celebrated some of our hardest working community members—our first responder hospital workers. Watch our video!
Beyond the Books: Addressing Education Inequalities through Service
We discuss our experiences with distance learning and explored how the pandemic has impacted the education system. We contributed to a virtual school supply drive and signed up to be peer tutors through a teen-led initiative called Free Peer Tutoring.
Baby Bags of Love: A Baby Essentials Drive for Families in Need
For the Purim tradition of matanot evyonim (giving gifts to the poor), we provided “Baby Bags of Love” full of essential items for parents with infants on-the-go. For families struggling financially, these essentials may be inaccessible and unaffordable. We don’t want anyone to choose between a meal and baby wipes.
Food Drive: Bay Area Teens Combat Food Insecurity
Since COVID-19, there has been a monumental rise in families needing help from food banks in Silicon Valley. We learned about this growing epidemic in the Bay Area, and put the Jewish value of tzedek—Justice for all—into action by donating healthy and nutritious food to the JFCS food pantries.
Seeding Change: Bay Area Teens Take Action for the Environment
YouthFirst and teens from across the Bay Area celebrated the birthday of the trees—a.k.a. Jewish Earth Day or Tu B’Shevat! Participants heard from an expert panel about ways to take environmental action, learn how to make and plant seed bombs, and engage in climate change advocacy.
Compassion for Companions: Supporting the Pets of People in Need
Teens led an Instagram campaign to explore ways we can provide compassion for pets, and the ways pets provide companionship to us—especially people facing great challenges. Participants supported an animal supply drive to benefit the 700 animals that give companionship to people in need through Shanti Project’s PAWS Program.
Make Your Voice Heard: Removing Racial Inequities in the Criminal Justice System
The Jewish teaching “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof—Justice, justice you shall pursue” implores us to create a society built on values of fairness and equality. The criminal justice system is filled with just the opposite, as seen in issues such as racial profiling, sentencing inequities, and cash bail. Teens heard longtime advocate Kat Morgan share her experiences working at San Quentin Prison, how she came to do the work she does, using her voice to make an impact.
Voting is Peachy: Combat Voter Suppression in the Georgia Run-Off Election
Voter suppression has been a challenge in the U.S. election system for decades, and barriers have increased dramatically due to COVID related restrictions. Teens helped disrupt voter suppression in Georgia during the Senate run-off election by writing and texting important reminders to voters.
Warm Winter Drive for Homeless and Shelter Communities
In partnership with LifeMoves, one of the largest homeless services agencies in Silicon Valley, we collected winter clothing essentials and wrote cards with New Year’s wishes for families in need.
Let Me Entertain You: Bring a Smile to Seniors with Memory Loss
In collaboration with Skyview Day Club, a program of JFCS, teens learned about the challenges facing older adults with severe memory loss, and the impact this has on their families and caregivers. Then, teens signed up for a talent show to entertain seniors and provide respite for caregivers at their daily lunchtime Zoom get-togethers.
#ShareALight with Seniors
Teens from all across the Bay Area joined together for this special opportunity on the night before Chanukah began to learn about the impacts of social isolation on seniors in our community, and take action by writing them letters of warmth and connection.
Removing the Smokescreen: Illuminating & Responding to Stories of California’s Fires
At this very special debut screening of a short film produced by our SF teen leaders, teens heard personal stories of loss due to the California fires. They also learned how to prepare and stock a “Go Bag” for their homes, and donated supplies to the JFCS Fire Relief Supply Drive.
Shop Local: Support Small Businesses During the Pandemic
In a lead-up to holiday shopping, teens shared their favorite local shops, boutiques, and restaurants on our Instagram. We also heard from local shop owners as they shared their stories about how the industry is faring after 9 months of COVID challenges.
Climate Change Your Mind / Beach Cleanup
Throughout this week-long social media campaign to advocate on behalf of the environment, teens highlighted some of the most unassuming human habits negatively impacting our planet. Each day they offered up actions we can take to make a difference, culminating in a beach clean-up at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
Warm Hats and Hugs: Support Critically Ill Children and Learn How to Knit!
Critically ill children and their families face some unique challenges, and teens learned how the work of Ronald McDonald House supports them. San Mateo’s very own Hannah Levine taught us how to knit, and then in our own way, we gave the families “warm hugs” by donating our creations to child patients.
Fridge for Thought: Address Food Insecurity in Marin County
At these events, teens helped address food insecurity issues for communities and households in Marin and San Francisco. They learned about a community-powered initiative called Community Fridges, as well as donated food to support JFCS clients and our Food Pantry.
Takeout Tuesday—Coming Right Up!
As we all have witnessed, many small restaurants/eateries are struggling to keep their businesses open due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Shelter-In-Place orders. We encouraged teens from all over the Bay Area to order take out/delivery from a local restaurant and then join us on ZOOM. We played interactive games like Skribbl.io and Kahoot, while connecting with old and new faces!
Face Masks for Frontline Workers
Storytime: Raising LGBTQ Awareness with Children
During this virtual storytime activity, teens spent time reading books with positive representations of central LBGTQ characters to young children (on Zoom!) and helped increase the inclusion of queer characters and themes in children’s literature.
Combat Voter Suppression
Voter suppression has been a challenge in the U.S. election system for decades. We disrupted longtime strategies of voter suppression by ensuring that Americans who are eligible to vote were registered and knowledgeable about how and where to vote. We organized two separate ways for teens to join this effort, with postcard-writing, and direct phone calls.
Gloves On: Neighborhood Clean Up
Teens collected as much trash as they could in their local neighborhood, and then met together to connect and learn more about how waste and recycling is managed by city authorities in the Bay.
Virtual Career Nights
Find out how your interests could turn into a career. Teens get a chance to join a variety of successful professionals online to hear them speak about their unique career journeys, followed by a structured Q&A. Stay tuned for our next virtual Career Night!