From Fellows to Facilitators: Practicing Youth Leadership

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On May 11th, YDI’s Public Allies, Kiera Schaindlin and Kat Figurelli, facilitated a training around Youth-Adult partnerships at the Department of Community and Youth Development’s (DYCD) annual Youth Leadership Summit. With a focus on civic engagement, the Summit was a unique opportunity for adults and young people to come together to support and highlight NYC youth leaders taking initiative in their communities.

The Summit started with an opening rally where youth leaders pumped up the crowd for the day’s activities. Over the course of the day, participants from around the city had the opportunity to attend sessions on topics such as civic engagement, entrepreneurship, the arts, and self-preservation. In these sessions young people were able to develop and strengthen connections with their peers and brainstorm ways to create change and advocate for themselves.

In YDI’s training, Kat and Kiera worked with the Luis Garden Acosta Bridging Community grantees. This grant was awarded by DYCD to 20 programs as a way to create opportunities for young people to develop work readiness skills through community-based civic engagement projects. Over the last two months, grantees had developed projects to address a social justice issue identified by the young people in each program. Program teams consisted of a program director, group facilitator, and their young people.

The purpose of the training was twofold: bring the project groups together to foster connections amongst the young people and explore how youth-adult partnerships ensure that projects are youth-led. To model these concepts and reinforce the importance of youth leadership, the training itself was youth-led by Kat and Kiera, utilizing what they’ve learned through their ten month service term and putting it into action.

In planning and running the training, Kat and Kiera exercised their newfound facilitation and Positive Youth Development skills. They built the training using the three-component YDI framework of connection, preparation and opportunities. First, they used icebreakers and the creation of group norms to establish connectedness and introduce the concept of youth voice and choice. Then, they guided a conversation about youth- adult partnerships, ensuring the groups felt prepared to do their projects. Finally, youth broke out into their groups and led discussions about project components and ways to make their work sustainable. Groups were given the opportunity to share their goals and identify ways to support one another.

Kat and Kiera emphasized how working at YDI and having the opportunity to close out with this training, allowed them to share out their own goals, grow as leaders and feel invested in by YDI staff. Leaving will be bittersweet, but they will always have the skills they developed and the relationships formed.