On October 16, UP hosted its first youth onboarding retreat with a goal of building connections between and among youth facilitators and adult staff members, practicing facilitation tools, and empowering others to effect change. From this retreat, UP confirmed that many of the now 65 youth interns working as co-facilitators in partner schools are interested in further developing their skills as leaders. UP’s Youth Program Specialists Isis Bandele-Asante, Maisie Franke, and Ana Lindert-Boyes designed a follow-up meeting to gather input on the future of the Youth Advisory Council (YAC).
Based on feedback from the October retreat, Isis, Maisie, and Ana further honed the goals of a youth-led and adult-supported group. Those goals are:
- Build a close, trusting, supportive learning community
- Reflect on and build skills as facilitators and leaders
- Introduce and practice protocols that are common across programs
- Develop and carry out the projects of the Youth Action Council
At the December 7th virtual meeting, the agenda included a review of the goals, community building activities, small group check-ins, and finally, visioning and action-planning for this new group. Past YAC projects include a survey and presentation of data on student health during COVID, a fishbowl dialogue about youth-adult partnership, and youth input on UP policies. Sharing from small group conversations revealed some of the challenges youth facilitators face, such as:
- Managing meetings that include students with a wide range of ages, personalities, and commitment to the work
- Removing barriers to creating representative youth leadership teams for UP projects in their school
- Working with adult partners
- Increasing comfort with the risk-taking needed to succeed as an honest and open leader
This history combined with awareness of current challenges helped frame a discussion around action this group could take. Initial ideas were hosting more community dialogues, creating training materials for new facilitators on UP and available facilitation tools, and leading opportunities to practice with more experienced facilitators. One participant expressed an interest in “expanding the variety of activities/protocols to target some of the common issues seen in schools such as building back a healthy community and culture.”
This new YAC – now the Youth Action Council – will meet monthly and continue to welcome new members. One member of this core team wrote that they were excited to participate and “be part of figuring this out (great ideas for projects), coming to meetings and contributing!”
As is true of all UP’s work, youth-adult partnership supports teams in figuring out their WHY and creating positive feelings, such as those identified in the closing activity: accomplishment, connectedness, hope, gratitude, excitement, appreciation, and curiosity. UP looks forward to sharing in the YAC’s next steps!