Sistas & Brothas United (SBU) develops youth leadership through academic support services and community campaigns to change conditions in our schools, neighborhoods, and beyond.

SBU also offers a safe space for youth in middle and high school to address the various forms of systemic oppression they encounter in our communities, including racism, homophobia, sexism, and ageism.

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Since its founding in 1999, SBU has worked with Bronx youth to take action together to transform their lives, schools, and communities. SBU members think critically about the systemic barriers they face, and lead campaigns at the forefront of the educational justice movement on city, state, and national levels.

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SBU has a powerful and holistic approach to youth leadership development that combines community organizing, political education, academic support, college access, and career development.  We provide space for participants to explore their academic, social, and political identities through creative expression. We invite youth to bring their whole selves, harness their gifts and dreams, and support each other like family.

Local Work

Youth Leadership Development

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SBU trains young people in essential skills to organize their communities and confront root causes of injustice, in order to create solutions together. We get personal about how oppression impacts all our lives and the gifts each member possesses that can uplift our humanity. With coaching from staff and peers, youth leaders identify their talents and areas for growth, and put their learnings into practice.

Young leaders take ownership of all SBU does, creating agendas and campaign plans, facilitating meetings and workshops, speaking on panels and to the press, and leading creative performances and demonstrations. As a result, SBU has a legacy of developing its members into program staff and leaders in other fields.

Youth-Led Local Organizing

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SBU works with students to develop school-specific or community-level campaigns that build youth power. We focus on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline that pushes students of color, students with special needs, and LGBTQ students out of school and into prison through  the overuse of suspensions and zero-tolerance policies involving police for minor infractions.

SBU works with Bronx high schools to establish a culture of campus unity and promote restorative justice approaches to get at the root of conflict and behavioral issues. We support restorative circles where young people collectively develop meaningful responses to harm done while learning empathy and mutual understanding. These circles are youth-led safe spaces that work to undo various forms of oppression.   

Student Success Center

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SBU supports young people for academic success today while preparing for their futures. Peer- and college-level tutors work one-on-one with students to create academic success plans that are tailored to their individual needs. SBU also offers individual college and career counseling, plus workshops on financial aid and scholarships, the college search and application process, essay and resume writing, and career exploration. In addition, SBU members participate in panel discussions with Bronx leaders in an array of professions, and embark on trips to college and university campuses.

Coalition Work

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SBU co-leads city, state, and national coalitions such as the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC), Dignity in Schools (DSC), and the Alliance for Educational Justice to shift zero-tolerance policies in the educational system toward holistic wellness and development.  

We challenge lawmakers to increase student access to guidance counselors and introduce student success centers that provide comprehensive resources to pursue higher education and career paths. For more information about UYC’s Get Us to College Campaign, read our white paper here.

Highlighted Victories

  • In 2015, SBU worked with DSC and UYC to secure $2.4 million from the New York City Council for investment in a citywide Restorative Justice Initiative.

  • In 2010, SBU worked with UYC to pass the Student Safety Act, a first-of-its kind legislation that mandates the NYC Department of Education and New York City Police Department to publicly report the number of arrests and suspension in schools. Amendments to strengthen reporting and transparency within this act were passed in 2015.  

  • In 2010, SBU successfully pressured the New York State legislature and Mass Transit Authority (MTA) to restore $25 million in financing, in order to keep Student MetroCards free.  

  • In 2005, SBU youth designed and opened the Leadership Institute, a high school with youth leadership for social justice at its center.  

  • In 2004, SBU and other youth organizing groups founded the Urban Youth Collaborative, a citywide force of young people for educational justice.

  • In 2001, SBU won over $2 million in school construction and capital improvement projects for the Bronx.