The application process was intensive, but Youth United for Change has selected Rapheal Randall as its new executive director.
Randall, 33, replaces longtime leader Andi Perez, who recently stepped down after 16 years with the organization. YUC made the announcement last week and plans to introduce the new leader to supporters and the broader community very soon.
Randall was chosen from more than 50 applicants by a search committee made up of YUC staff, board members, and alumni, according to a YUC news release.
Randall comes to the job with an unusual combination of interests and experience -- design and activism. After a short stint working in product design, he earned his master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. He has since worked with communities in North Philadelphia and Kensington to create better uses for vacant land. He has also campaigned to raise the minimum wage and to stop gentrification in Point Breeze.
“You know, when I was a kid I wanted to be a toymaker,” said Randall, reflecting on his unique resume in an interview. Randall said that he loved action figures and often spent time drawing cartoons. He pursued those interests as an undergraduate student at Ohio State University. But during a study abroad trip in Brazil, he was encouraged to do advocacy work after witnessing a young girl, around 7 or 8 years old, who was asking tourists for money but was repeatedly brushed off.
“It hit me, at that moment, [that] it’s not enough to have an individual dream. We have to be in the process of developing dreams together.”
Randall said that he gave all the money in his pockets to the little girl, then decided to use his skills as an effective communicator to dedicate his life to social justice.
Randall is excited about working with YUC, which has campaigned around a number of issues, including school funding and the creation of small schools.
“[They] are already doing incredible work with the schools, making sure that the voices of the working and poor folks are heard at the table of power,” he said.
Randall said he intends to continue the focus on the younger generation.
“I’m just trying to get a sense of what people’s aspirations are, what the youth’s aspirations are, and making sure that youth are at the forefront of what we’re pushing for because they are going to inherit the city at some point.”
Marilyn Vaccaro is an intern at the Notebook.