Igniting Change: See How the Youth Activation in School Summit Started the Spark.

On Tuesday, June 4th nearly 100 exuberant youth, educators, and field experts filed into a room at the vibrant Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, Ca. Their eagerness illustrated their preparedness for the two-day journey ahead of them. 

PeerForward, in partnership with Facebook Education, held its’ second annual Youth Activation in Schools summit. Leaders of various backgrounds from across the nation gathered to discuss how they could bring Youth Activation to their communities. Youth Activation is the process of creating and executing student-designed solutions to pressing challenges youth identified in their schools.

Over the course of the weekend, youth leaders and adult allies worked diligently to assess the needs of their community and identify the most pressing challenges they see in their schools, colleges, or organization. By identifying root causes, participants were able to collaborate with veteran Youth Activators, who are experienced in youth-led initiatives, to devise a plan of action to address their identified challenge. To get a quick view of the YAS summit, check out the short video below.

Phillip Lyew-Daniels stands beside his fellow Veteran Youth Activators.

Moises Urena explaining the key components of a SMART goal.

Veteran Youth Activators, like Phillip Lyew-Daniels and PeerForward alum Moises Urena, understand personally the impact of young leaders having a more experienced mentor to help guide them. Both Phillip and Moises created and led their own mentorship programs. Moises aimed to provide high school freshmen with opportunities for leadership development, while Phillip sought to provide access to information and resources for incoming students of color at Clemson University. Their personal experience allowed them to masterfully facilitate sessions in which Youth Activators were tasked with creating SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely – Goals. Their assistance allowed students to think creatively about how they could turn their abstract ideas in concrete actions.

Youth Activators also were given an opportunity to define their leadership qualities through an individualized reflective activity. Among those leading the activity were veteran Youth Activators Nastassja Morton and Alexander Trapps-Chabala. Nastassja, having led her own Peer Leader Team in Bowie, Md., guided students through their stories, extracting words, phrases, and themes which together formed a vision of a young changemaker.

Alexander Trapps-Chabala, who founded the genealogy and social justice platform, KinConnector, understood the importance of establishing a strong sense of self as a Youth Activator. His work researching the family history of marginalized communities meant that Alex was prepared to connect the leadership journey of the Youth Activators in the room to a larger impact they could have on their communities for generations to come.

Alexander Trapps-Chabala speaks with Antoine Lindsey and Jo Smith.

Students and adult allies were there to do the work of creating youth-led solutions, and to witness the triumph of what youth-led action can do for surrounding communities. PeerForward Alums, Antwon Lindsey and Marquez Davies, exemplified the power of Youth Activation and strategic partnerships. Lindsey, an author, and short filmmaker described the journey of taking his written work to the big screen. In a riveting panel, Antwon and Marquez explained that their trajectory was based completely on their desire to showcase the untold story of their community. That desire, with ambition and months of planning, culminated in the completion of Antwon’s directorial debut, Reticent: Why Black Boys Can’t Cry. The Youth Activation in Schools summit showcased a short snippet of the video, which highlights mental health among black boys. Davis, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and host of the Teach-Him Podcast  detailed his experience connecting with various members of his community to create a film screening for the residents in the area; the success of which, according to Davis, was the ability for people to see themselves represented in film and to spark a conversation that might create a larger shift in how their community views mental health and prosperity.

The Youth Activation in Schools summit culminated in a live stream of Youth Activators showcasing the plans they devised over two days. After working with SuperPower Coaches to perfect their pitch, Youth Activators spoke about tackling a range of issues from mental health and awareness in schools to improving graduations rates, highlighting direct actions and campaigns they planned to bring back to their community. The live stream can be viewed here.

Action teams came from:  School districts – Broward County (Fla.) Public Schools, Dallas Independent School District, District of Columbia Public Schools, Jacksonville-Duvall County Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, Nampa (Idaho) School District, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, New York City Department of Education, Noble Network of Charter Schools, and Stockton Public Schools; Colleges – Broward College and Valencia College; and Nonprofits – Achieve Atlanta, BRIDGES, and Oasis Center.

After a successful weekend of planning, Youth Activators participated in State of the Young People, a conference hosted by America’s Promise Alliance, that held a number of panels discussing the range of challenges that younger generations face and how they have and can overcome those challenges.

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