by: Marianne Latz
The Center for Family and Community Engagement in collaboration with Strong Able Youth Speaking Out (SaySo) on March 21, 2014 jointly hosted a daylong conference entitled Youth Leadership Café. The event was based on the World Café model of engaging community members and professionals in discussion of a specific topic. This Café topic was “how to create and sustain youth leadership at youth-serving agencies.” Sixteen current and former foster youth ages 18-24, nine youth serving workers, six Center staff members, and one SaySo staff member participated in the Café. Participants arrived from nine North Carolina counties (Alamance, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Pitt, Robeson, and Wake). Together, Café participants engaged in facilitated discussions where they brainstormed ideas to address four questions focused on youth leadership:
- What are some ways to overcome barriers to establishing youth leadership opportunities?
- What strengths and behaviors should youth/young adults display as leaders in their agencies?
- What are the benefits to providing youth/young adults leadership in agencies?
- What would support youth/young adults with becoming leaders or feeling empowered?
All participants were given the opportunity to respond to each question in facilitated small group discussions.Their collective responses highlighted four main categories as areas for attention and growth. These four categories are:
- Improve agency infrastructure to support youth partnership;
- Help the youth establish supportive relationships;
- Connect youth to community resources; and
- For youth, pursue self-improvement in areas that support taking leadership roles.
The event was a great success. Participants provided overwhelmingly positive feedback on the experience. When participants were asked to share what they enjoyed most about the event, they responded that they appreciated the conversation, hearing from others and most importantly being heard. One person noted that s/he “liked the collaboration between the youth, moderator, and youth-serving workers.” Another said that s/he appreciated that his/her “perspective was valued” and that s/he “knew it was being documented.” The agency workers appreciated the small groups where they could “connect and interact with other youth and workers.” Both groups appreciated the foster care alumna who spoke about her experiences and encouraged the young adults present in their own path of transitioning to adulthood.
Jasmin Volkel, Project Coordinator, and Chaney Stokes, Youth Leadership Coordinator, will present on Café outcomes at the Footsteps to the Future 2014 National Foster Care Conference to be held May 28-30, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The Café was funded by a Seed grant from NC State’s Outreach, Engagement, and Economic Development. The Center would like to thank SaySo for its partnership, the CHASS Research Office for its grant administration support, the NC Division of Social Services for supporting Center trainers who helped carry out the event, and the Alamance Family Justice Center in Burlington, NC for providing a meeting space.