In May, YDI’s My Brother and Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) Youth Council had the opportunity to present at the Beacon National Conference in San Francisco, California. This year’s theme, Light the Future, was designed to inspire and empower youth and adult attendees as leaders through a series of networking events, workshops, keynotes, and collaborative learning. This was a unique opportunity for our Council members to embrace discomfort, and develop and strengthen their public speaking and communication skills. In their free time, our council members explored the city of San Francisco, riding trolleys, snapping photos with local wall art, and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge.
Since last fall, Council members have been working on a project using research and community mapping to address needs in their communities. Through creating a survey and facilitating focus groups, the Council investigated whether youth have awareness of mental health services and educational scholarships, and their thoughts on government involvement in healthcare and gun control. With the support of their group chaperones, Saher Mahmood, Dennis Carter, Rachelle Valbrun, Cynthia Green, and Theodore Phillips, the Council members disseminated the surveys to peers and other young people in their communities to gather data. One thing they found was that out of 1,000 students in NYC, 26% of them reported significant anxiety; of these students, only 10% sought out help. Using findings like this, they presented their research at the Beacon National Conference to highlight the lack of awareness around resources available to young people.
YDI’s Public Allies, Kat and Kiera, interviewed some of the Council members in attendance—Ebube, Ashanti, Emily, and Gabriella—and asked them about their experiences at the conference. This is what they had to say:
Kat and Kiera: What did you learn about your community through this project?
Ebube: I learned that the youth of NYC are not informed or aware of what they’re able to attain and access.
Ashanti: Many teens in our community aren’t aware of the many resources available to them.
Kat and Kiera: How did it feel presenting your project at a National conference?
Ashanti: I felt really good and also anxious.
Emily: It was nerve-wracking at first because of all the adults, but as we went through it, I got more comfortable with it.
Ebube: It felt great.
Kat and Kiera: What impact did this conference have on you as a leader?
Gabriella: It made me realize that I have a strong voice and my voice has a great importance and impact on others.
Ashanti: It made me more aware of my environment and the resources available to me and other teens.
Emily: It allowed me to see how much of a change I can bring to my community and how important what we do is.
Ebube: It gave me exposure to what is expected from a leader in both appearance and intellectual ability.
Through the opportunity to present at the conference, the youth on our Council recognized that they have the ability and the agency to use their voices to activate change in their communities. Young people become young leaders through being given opportunities to try, fail, learn, grow, and have their work and their voices taken seriously. To get involved or learn more about the MBSK youth council, see here.