Olis Simmons

Founder, President and CEO

Youth UpRising

Oakland Director

The activist, the organizer, and the administrator, is best known for pioneering breakthrough policy and systems change and launching innovative, comprehensive programs and services that create equal opportunities for youth and communities of color. For nearly twenty years, Simmons has been a thought leader and practitioner across youth leadership development, healthcare, child welfare, treatment, and workforce development disciplines. Her work has influenced significant policy reforms and been featured in numerous local and national publications.

She is most notably celebrated as the engine behind the design and development of Youth UpRising (YU), the premier community transformation hub in the greater Bay Area, providing comprehensive, integrated services and leadership development programs as a vehicle to achieve authentic community revitalization. Since YU opened its doors in 2005, Simmons has built a diverse operating budget of more than $6 million, a growing membership base of more than 4,000 young people, a dynamic network of strategic partnerships, a credible reputation of attracting, retaining, and moving some of the hardest to reach youth; providing employment opportunities to hundreds of them, and she has passed numerous of critical policy initiatives.

Simmons’ other work includes national public policy and program design work with Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, where she helped states and localities adjust to changing and complicated landscape of welfare reform in the 1990’s. There, she developed best-practice strategies and models to assist diverse public systems in implementing new welfare-to-work and workforce development programs in order to decrease unemployment rates.