Within the midst of curriculum development, youth recruitment, and program planning, network members will be welcoming some familiar faces to their fall programs. Returning teens is a sure sign that young people have meaningful experiences in youth development spaces through unique learning opportunities, relationship building with their peers and educators, and through their drive to explore new ways to advance their work and leadership. This presents an exceptional moment for youth development organization to identify opportunities for youth leaders to engage deeper in the mission they believe in. On September 26th, the Hive NYC learning Network gathered at Partnership for Afterschool Education (PASE) to learn about successful approaches that Hive members use to effectively cultivate youth leadership in their programs and in their organizations. The purpose of this discussion was not to prescribe an approach or theory but to present multiple lenses on how instituting youth led spaces.
As a network, we dove deeper into exploring how integrating youth leadership practices can support member’s organizational mission and goals (ex.improve program development and offerings, partnership development, project management, and advancing community engagement etc.) It was discussed that in order to provide intentional opportunities for youth leadership, there needs to be an organization wide alignment that commits to integrating authentic youth input and engagement – this means a shift in what we perceive young people’s roles to be in our organizations and our expectations of them. Members collectively identified what actions and considerations need to be made to integrate a youth leadership model into organizational structures:
- Intentionality between outward facing and inward facing youth leadership. Organizations should identify where youth involvement makes the most sense depending on their capacity, understanding the potential of each. This could be a combination of outward facing (ex. helping to create opportunities to external audience through events, media, recruitment etc) nd inward facing engagement (ex. developing programs, hiring, board seat etc).
- Youth leaders must be recognized as equal contributors to the mission. Youth in our programs are often committed to promoting member’s work to their communities and deserve respect in their ability to carry on the mission. This also paves the way for cultivating youth as future colleagues in our organizations and within the field.
- Creating an intentional holistic space where young people can see beyond their capacity and can be supported moving towards their goals. The importance and realness of in and out of program space (3rd space) – builds safe and brave engagement to build trusting and supportive relationships to cultivate leaders. This process can be difficult, we need to make sure youth take care of themselves.
- Youth leadership development is a youth development program. We can use our understanding of how we create an intentional space for our programs and similar practices to cultivate youth leadership models in our work. Integrating youth involvement takes time and commitment. Consider the steps it takes to support young people’s empowerment building to reach a goal set in programs, to learn a process, to accomplish a project.
We invited two Hive member organizations, the Bklyn Public Library and Global Action Project, to share a snapshot of the youth leadership models they employ in their work. We wanted to take this opportunity to learn about members’ unique practices, understanding challenges and solutions to uphold a successful youth led environment.
Erin Shaw, Director of Brooklyn Cultural Adventures Program, shared on behalf of The Bklyn Public Library (BPL). BPL launched the Bklyn Library Youth Council, modeled after NYC Service Youth Leadership Council. With the intention of establishing more opportunities for youth engagement, it was important for BPL not to deduce what and how young people would become involved with the library and therefore developed a youth council that led the process of proposing engagement events and opportunities to outreach to youth communities (ex. Bklyn Urban Art Jamm). BPL collaborates with their youth leaders to develop and offer a variety of opportunities for youth based on their interests, academic and professional needs, exploring leadership roles with their peers and within their communities. In Today’s Teens and Tomorrow’s Techies (T4 Program), young people explore the capacity for leadership by building their technology based expertise to support their community’s learning. The T4 program trains young people to serve as technology specialists that prepares them to share knowledge with community members across other library branches. The youth council also supports BPL with leading research projects and playing expert roles within their communities – In this work, they work with the library to identify how to get more internet access to the communities that really need it. Visit the link for Erin’s SlideDeck.
Karina Hurtado, Community Media in Action Coordinator, shared a spotlight on behalf of Global Action Project (GAP). GAP’s leadership development process has been engrained throughout their media production programs, where young people collectively lead the production process in the Youth Breaking Borders and Supafriends programs. The youth leadership model that GAP employs is rooted in their intended social justice impacts: youth development – building a collaborative space to work with each other, media production – reflective of their political experiences that are tied to larger social justice work, and political education – creating social impact and consciousness raising by connecting to movement building. GAP is dedicated to building power and agency with the communities they work with: immigrant, undocumented youth, trans, and gender nonconforming youth. One particular way they do this is by developing community norms to establishing youths power, building space collectively. This accountability to hold space is shared by young people, educators, and GAP Staff – leveling the playing field. GAP’s leadership pipeline is built into organizational structure, providing opportunities for young people to have the option to advance their organizational leadership. Young people who attend their production programs could connect with the outreach and distribution of their work: creating curriculum, facilitating screenings, train the trainers, and supporting partners in building media projects of their own. The youth at GAP also play a vital role in building and realizing a vision at GAP that has large impact. They believe that it is crucial to involve youth in organizational decision making particularly being able to shape what happens in the organization, what type of programs exist, and how this works stay relevant in the media landscape as well as responding to changing community needs. Visit the link for Karina’s SlideDeck.
In the overall discussion, members felt that it was important to identify challenges and barriers to establish youth leadership approaches at their organization. Members would like to continue working with fellow network members to find solutions:
- Staff capacity to implement a youth-led initiative – varying levels of challenges from lack of space, budget constraints, and minimized staffing structures.
- How can organizations build capacity to institute youth leadership strategies with more transient youth communities? How can models shared align to scale and needs of different youth populations (ex. homeless and incarcerated youth etc.)
- Understanding staff needs in order to cultivate youth leadership – identifying professional development that can provide tools for cultivating leadership, how to maintain organizationally when staff with this knowledge/know how transition out.
- Identifying effective ways to measure short term and long term impacts of providing youth leadership opportunities in our organizations – identifying evaluation measure that can help track where young people take these skills.
Although challenges exist, the strengths and need for building a youth led environment outweighs these challenges. Members agree that in order to effectively provide quality programming and experiences to the young people, there needs to be room to adjust how we intentionally involve them in creating their own learning spaces, their opportunities for growth, and their pathways towards larger social impact. Members discussed an aspiration they have in supporting youth leaders to be the ones who take over their organization, become the educators and innovators shifting the work to a new era and with their communities at the center of this work.
At the beginning and tail end of our network gathering, we dedicated time for network members to connect and share fall updates, program and employment opportunities, events, and resources.
- Building a Pipeline for Justice: Understanding Youth Organizing and the Leadership Pipeline: by Shawn Ginwright explores how youth organizing is an effective entry point for a more sustainable, long-term progressive, social justice movement. Positive youth development and youth organizing strategies that support leadership development within a spectrum of civic engagement and youth organizing. Also explores how move away from tokenism to authentic youth engagement. Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing – Mission is to increase increase resources to the field of youth organizing and promote the leadership of low-income youth of color in social justice organizing.
- Eyebeam is moving to Bushwick! Looking to connect with local organizations to build community and partnerships. If you know any rad orgs to connect, send info to Lauren Gardner <firstname.lastname@example.org> at Eyebeam.
- Dignity in Schools Campaign: List of National Events & Teach-Ins – NYC teach-in will be on Oct. 23rd from 5-7pm. Conversation organized by students, parents, and educators will focus on the need to end racial disparities in NYC schools. Contact Karina Hurtado <email@example.com> at GAP for more details.
- Brooklyn Public Library – Follow the link, BKLYN Youth Council and Urban Arts Jamm applications are open! For teens, ages 14-19 who want to share their voice in library decision-making, event-planning, and leadership!
- STARS Citywide Girls Initiative – RSVP via the link to register for the Free College Fair on Oct. 17th
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – GOALS Science Forum for teens ages 14-18 on November 18th – Free Drones! – Website updates coming soon. Contact Shay Saleem <firstname.lastname@example.org> at the Intrepid for more details.
- American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) hosted youth events: Teen SciCafe on Oct. 4th. Interactive discussions with scientists to learn about their research and how it relates to the world we live in! College Fair on Oct. 20. Also, AMNH host college readiness info sessions once a month on Saturdays!
- Octavia Project – leading workshop at GENDERFUL on Oct. 14th for young people ages 6-12 exploring gender through art! The workshop will take place at Brooklyn Public Library Youth Wing.
- Tribeca Film Institute is hiring educators in media and writing to work with youth in detention centers. The job posting is attached to this email.
- Tribeca will also be hosting a professional development training retreat on Connected Learning in Incarcerated Spaces on November 3rd and 4th. Contact Katherine Cheairs <email@example.com> at TFI for more details.
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is looking for women mentors for GOALS internship/mentorship program focused on STEM/Education. Contact Shay Saleem <firstname.lastname@example.org> for more details.
- American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) are on the search to fill an Earth Science Educator position. Contact Nick Martinez <email@example.com> for more details.
- The LAMP is looking for Media Literacy Educators. You can find job posting here, or contact Zenzele Johnson <firstname.lastname@example.org> for more details.
- Reel Works is hiring for multiple positions – follow the links for job postings on Screenwriting Instructor and Filmmaker in Residence positions.
If there are any other opportunities you’d like to share with the rest of the network, please send an email to the Hive NYC Listserv. You can also post opportunities and community updates to Hive NYC’s Slack Channel. Not part of Slack, you can sign up by visiting https://hivenyc.slack.com/signup.