Who We Are

Youth Rise Texas is an organization dedicated to uplifting the voices of young people harmed by criminalization and deportation so that they may heal, take action, and cultivate compassionate communities.

Our staff includes:

Kandace Vallejo
Founding Executive Director

Kandace Vallejo is Executive Director of Youth Rise Texas and a 2017 Soros Justice Fellow. Youth Rise Texas uplifts youth harmed by criminalization and deportation so that they may heal, take action, and cultivate community. Prior to founding Youth Rise in 2015, Kandace spent 12 years in immigrant rights, working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Student/Farmworker Alliance, and Workers Defense Project, where she helped start the organization’s groundbreaking Better Builder Program. Vallejo holds a Masters in Education from UT Austin, and was Kellogg Food and Community Fellow in 2013 while starting a youth food justice program at Workers Defense. She is also Board Chair at Jolt Texas, partnering to turn the tide in Texas by registering a new wave of progressive Latinx youth voters across the Lone Star State. Vallejo was also recently chosen out of over 1,300 people nationally for the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leaders program.

Kymberlie Quong-Charles
Deputy Director

Kymberlie is currently the Deputy Director at Youth Rise Texas where she oversees youth programming and coordinates grant-based fundraising.  She is an organizer, facilitator, writer and mother integrating mindfulness and healing into her personal and professional pursuits. With educational and experiential background in intersectional movements for justice, Kymberlie brings a global awareness to her local work dismantling systems of oppression.  In 2002 she received a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana and in 2009 she received her Master’s of Science in Social Work from the Steve Hicks (UT) School of Social Work with a graduate portfolio in Women and Gender Studies. As a graduate student she completed a generalist internship at Out Youth, providing group counseling and case management for LGBTQ youth in the Austin area, and a policy and administration internship at the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) as an organizer and lobbyist on Healthcare and Revenue Reform which later became her full time job.  Following her employment with CPPP, Kymberlie became the Criminal Justice Program Director at Grassroots Leadership, managing the organization’s local and national campaigns to end mass incarceration. She transitioned to Deputy Director at Youth Rise Texas in June 2017.

Darriana Donegan
Youth Organizing Institute Coordinator

Darriana is the Youth Organizing Institute Coordinator at Youth Rise Texas. In her role she coordinates all aspects of the year-long Youth Organizing Institute, a learning and leadership program for young people harmed by incarceration and deportation. Darriana knows how important it is for a young persons development that they have a consistent and present adult ally in their corner. She studied Psychology at Drake University and has worked in Youth Development for four years, with youth ranging from 5 years to 20 years old. Darriana first found her passion for this work when she served as a fellow in The Juilliard School’s Artists Striving to End Poverty intensive fellowship program. It was there that she realized she could intersect her education with her love for social change, art, and young people.