Coleman Advocates is nationally known as a community-organizing powerhouse. We know the voices, perspectives, experiences, and expertise of Black and Brown youth and parents are essential to building equity, education justice, and racial justice in our schools and communities.

The heart of our work is leadership development and empowerment. We’ve trained thousands of young people and parents to organize for change.

Our children, youth, and parent leadership programs are highly successful. Since 1975, our children, youth, and parent member-leaders have developed, mobilized for, and won many policy and budget changes, improving conditions and expanded opportunities for hundreds of thousands of San Francisco children and families.

And our member-led campaigns create waves far beyond San Francisco. Our successes have inspired similar reforms throughout the state and country.

At Coleman, we use 5 strategies to achieve systems change for equity, education justice, and racial justice:

1. Building a base and developing leaders  Coleman brings large numbers of youth and families together to build power and take action to change systems and hold systems accountable to the community’s needs and interests.  We support members to take leadership in changing the conditions in their lives, develop a shared analysis of community problems, build skills and confidence, organize other leaders and supporters, and participate in collective action.

2. Organizing policy and budget campaigns — Coleman supports our members to conduct research to identify policy solutions to community problems and to choose, lead, and win policy and budget reform campaigns. We focus on developing new resources and implementing systems change to end the school-to-prison pipeline, end the criminalization and policing of Black and Brown students, and expand district opportunities for parent education and leadership.

3. Engaging and educating voters — Coleman carries out nonpartisan voter engagement efforts to educate and empower historically disenfranchised communities in San Francisco and to hold our elected officials accountable to our communities’ interests.

4. Monitoring systems and policies — Coleman members play critical system “watchdog” roles in our schools and communities, sometimes as leaders in official district and city task forces and working groups, to analyze problems, design solutions, support policy implementation, and ensure that institutions are held accountable to commitments made.

5. Building alliances and coalitions — Coleman helps to develop and lead local, state, and national coalitions and alliances to build bridges across issues and communities and grow the diverse base and abundant resources necessary for long-term systems change.

Youth & Parent Leaders

Coleman member-leaders are the heart and soul of our work. Engaged parents and young people join Coleman because they know they cannot fight our communities’ problems alone. Coleman children, youth, and parent meetings are lively spaces, full of debate and lots of food and laughter.

Members join and take action together, meeting together weekly in local elementary, middle, and high schools, building courage, skills to speak out, and unity across race, language, and generations. Together, they envision and lead issue campaigns that make a real difference in systems change.

Children Making a Change (CMAC) develops the leadership of Black and Brown elementary and middle schoolers in grades 4 – 8. Since 2014, CMAC has worked to provide student leaders with age-appropriate leadership development, political education, skill-building training, hands-on learning opportunities, and tutoring in math and literacy. CMAC meetings include workshops, participatory activities, discussions, and opportunities to apply lessons learned to CMACers’ lives and their school communities. 

Youth Making a Change (YMAC), developing the leadership of Black and Brown high schoolers, has been going strong since 1991. YMAC has involved thousands of youth in youth-led efforts to stand up for and win innovative changes for San Francisco’s high schools and students, including Wellness Centers and SF Youth Vote, as well as landmark policies to close the racial achievement gap.

YMAC is a hybrid model of member-led grassroots organizing, sharp policy and budget advocacy, and deep civic engagement. In addition, YMAC members receive individual and group academic and personal support, and community-building activities that we see as essential to sustainable community organizing.

Students Making a Change (SMAC) is a community organizing and leadership development program for and led by community college students committed to improving education equity and racial justice at City College of San Francisco and beyond. SMAC’s organizing and mobilization efforts helped pass AB 1705, a major win with long-lasting and far-reaching effects for Black and Brown students in community college, ensuring incoming students from low-income high schools are not automatically placed in remedial classes. It also prohibits colleges from requiring students to repeat math, and English classes passed in high school to allow students to take the necessary classes they need to transfer right away.

SMAC’s focus at CCSF enables former YMAC members and fellows to continue their leadership development from high school and creates opportunities for students to influence their schools’ policies and culture.


Parents Making a Change (PMAC) empowers Black and Brown adult family members to advocate for positive change in their children’s schools and communities. PMAC develops the leadership, skills, and confidence of thousands of parents.

Coleman provides on-going support as PMAC members lead high-impact policy efforts on issues ranging from bilingual and special education programming to student access, technology resources, and workforce development programs.

Coleman develops committed life-long leaders who exert leadership in their own lives, in their schools, in our organization, and in movements for racial justice and education justice.

Alliances & Coalitions

Alliance for Education Justice, Founding Member

Bay Area Coalition for Education Justice, Founding Member

Bay Resistance, Steering Committee

Close the Gap Coalition, Founding Member

Communities United for Health and Justice, Founding Member

Dignity in Schools California, Founding Member

Fix School Discipline Statewide Policy Coalition, participate in many working groups

Jobs with Justice San Francisco, Steering Committee

Movement for Black Lives Policy Table, United Front Member

National Dignity in Schools Campaign, Coordinating Committee

San Francisco Rising, Founding Member, Electoral Alliance, Leadership Committee

Yo! California, Founding Member and Steering Committee

Fiscal Projects

AEJ is a national alliance of Black and oppressed youth leading a movement to end the war on youth in our schools & waging struggle for education as liberation.
BJC is a broad coalition of coalitions working to ensure that the San Francisco budget invests in and fills the unmet needs of everyday San Franciscans.