Youth In Action is a nonprofit that takes a look at working with, and helping youth under a completely different light than what our society is used to. There is always a power dynamic when it comes to a youth and their superior. Whether that superior might be their parents, teachers, mentors, officers, etc. That dynamic is always where the youth holds slim to no power, while that superior holds most of it. In Youth in Action, this idea of power running vertically is unheard of. At YIA the power runs horizontally, where "youth and adults are growing together" (YIA, pg. 49). The Idea for YIA is to not have the youth be lectured at, but to raise discussion to learn.
Just as of recently I have interviewed with YIA for my upcoming internship. In the text when it explains the environment and feel of this four story house/building it is correct. It isn't your typical building you would expect. It has a lounge area for youth and adults to hangout in, it has a full kitchen where meals are made for events, or just cause. It also has a large space, which would be a living room for most, that has transformed into a place where controversial topics are disputed and discussed in a large circle. There are many more important rooms that I will learn much more about during my internship there. But even visiting for the first time for my interview, I felt comfortable in this space as soon as I walked through the front door. Even the porch outside had a small garden of fresh vegetables that the youth and organization have planted and grown. There are pictures of the past events and youth leaders all over the walls, in rememberance of all the empowering youth that have made a difference in their lives and communities. (Also pictures of current YIA members)
At my interview I was told a specific model that YIA use as of today. They have three stages to their program. The first stage involves getting to know the youth, where they think hey stand in the world and in our social justice system. YIA gets to know the youth inside and out, the same way youth get to know every aspect of the adults lives. I am not sure of exactly what happens in this stage, again hopefully I will learn much more as my internship goes on. In the second stage, youth are able to go into the communities and schools where they do workshops for other youths. This is the real empowering part, where the youth are now completely leading certain projects. There is also a third stage for those youth that want more, for the youth that want to change policy and go way farther. And throughout each stage, youth and adults are working side by side to help youth build these great workshops and build the confidence to facilitate them.
When I was younger I never had an older role model to help me feel like I was an important person in this world. I was so smart, and I never spoke in class because I felt that what I had to say was always wrong, or not important. The teachers would not embrace discussion, but yearn for the exact correct answer they needed and the move on. So I was always worried that my "exact correct" answer was never correct enough. YIA takes that fear away from youth and replaces it with confidence. I wish programs such as YIA were available for me, but I will make sure that one day it will be available for all youth that need this partnership and strength to feel like their answer or responses to questions and ideas are always their own version of "exact and correct", and that they have the confidence to say it.
I love everything that YIA does every single day for youth in Providence, and I cannot wait to become a part of this team.
One day, cohort 4, this thank you will be to all of us! #believeinyouth