by Na’Quel Walker
Generating a Generation of Change, the last event in our Thriving Leaders series and co-designed with our youth design team, called on leaders in the youth development field to be in community with young people, to hear their thoughts and hopes for youth and adult partnerships.
As we reflect on the Thriving Youth event, we wanted to share some of the wisdom dropped by our amazing panelists, presenters, and participants.
Youth and Adult Keynote Panel
Our youth and adult panelists shared a wide array of practices and strategies to empower youth and center youth voices in our work. Some of the themes that came up were adult consistency, the importance of one-on-ones, youth developing/driving the agenda, and asking for youth feedback on a regular basis. A participant shared after the event: “Really love the emphasis on making youth feel seen, heard, and respected as the intelligent and capable people they are!”
- Here are some to inspire your reflection and action: Wisdom from youth panelists: “Having adults asking for my input and opinion on things is really important.”
- “Taking the feedback from youth and students seriously, and I really appreciate when adults take that feedback and actually implement it, and you can see the genuine interest in the opinions.”
- “Consistency. If adults show that your input and opinions will generally be heard from the beginning, that leads to students feeling more comfortable and knowing that they will be heard.”
- “The best thing I’ve been offered to validate my voice is to be speaking to someone who isn’t dismissive. It’s very important to know that I’m being listened to, and I’m being heard, and that feedback is going to mean something, whether it’s for me or for someone else. It brings a lot of comfort, and relief into that environment because you feel heard, and you feel respected.”
Wisdom from adult panelists:
- “Asking the students what they want.”
- “Having youth have a voice in the workshop and content and how it’s done are some of the practical ways to center youth voices.”
- “Centering youth voices can be the smallest thing like asking the youth that I work with what kind of snacks that they want to have and by letting them lead and set up programs that they want to see.”
- “Getting direct feedback to adjust as we go, not to assume that what we are doing is working. I do this through one-on-one meetings with students, and I let them lead the meetings and ask me their questions and tell me what they want.”
- “Empower individuals within the group of youth, encouraging dissent and making it really clear that it’s ok to disagree and have a different perspective.”
- “Making youth feel comfortable enough and empowered enough to hold me accountable and the way that I do this is with my one-on-one check-ins with them.”
- “Making them agents of change at the center, making it comfortable for them to ask questions and use their voice to advocate for themselves.”
Workshop A: Advancing Equity in Out-of-School Time Settings through Youth Focus Groups with Ben Matthews and Hannah Patterson
Hannah and Ben from Campfire shared with us several practices that help with soliciting feedback from youth and how to use that data to make real change and input the things that are important to youth and make them feel safe and included.
One fun and creative way to solicit feedback from youth that we learned from Hannah and Ben was the use of storyboards. It turns out that you can use these with your adult teams as well! Using a storyboard allows youth to be as creative as they want, and they can write or draw, but it’s a way to give adults important feedback. The storyboards comprise three parts to reflect on an experience or imagine what one’s experience might be: how one felt and what happens in the beginning, during, and after.
Some takeaways that stood out were being very intentional about collecting feedback from youth. As Ben put it, “Making sure that we’re open about who we serve and what our goals are to ensure that young people trust us to hold on to their information and only share it with people is an absolute necessity.” And once you’ve collected your data, how important it is to share that information back to youth and make it visible so that the youth that come after know that their voices matter and will be taken seriously. As Hannah said, “Putting the focus group and survey data in the program space reflected back the youth voices that we heard for the youth to see.”
For more ideas and resources to guide your work, make sure to download this Youth Leading Community Change: An Evaluation Toolkit!
Workshop B: Practices for Well-being & Connection with Robyn Long and Sasha Duttchoudhury
Robyn and Sasha led some amazing mindfulness practices that not only made us feel centered but really allowed us to reflect and process our emotions, thoughts, and how we manage stress. In this powerful workshop, they shared several prompts that allowed participants to dig deeper. We’d like to share some of them with you all:
- Define resilience and share strategies/practices that help build resilience
- How have the COVID 19 pandemic and ongoing racial injustices in the last two years affected your Window of Tolerance? How did you know?
- What brings you back to center when you’ve been kicked out of your Window of Tolerance?
- What are the barriers to self-compassion?
As you think about how you’ll bring more mindfulness and well-being into your work in 2022, consider bringing these prompts to your next team meeting or using them as journal prompts to use for yourself or for you to give to the youth that your organization serves!
Make sure to check out this Free Drop-in Session: Cultivating Self-Compassion through Metta Practice, Monday, February 14, with Sasha Duttchoudhury. And sign up for the Resilience Cohort for Professionals Serving Youth & Families, hosted by the UW Center for Child & Family Well-being in partnership with YDEKC, beginning March 10 and meeting virtually every two weeks through May, OR sign up for Be REAL: Resilient Attitudes & Living 6-week course, online with Sasha Duttchoudhury and Robyn Long, starts April 7 (sliding scale, scholarships available).