The TNOYS Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) has been making an impact since it began in 2018. Read more about its work so far here. These accomplishments would not have been possible without strong and dedicated members. Get to know a little more about YALC member Justin Hayward in this recent interview.
Why did you join the YALC? Why do you think the YALC is important?
Originally I joined because I wanted to be connected. I thought [the YALC] was really important because, first of all, it promotes youth voice – for us to speak up, speak out, and help lead TNOYS’ work. It also can give youth the ability to make decisions that they didn’t have before. And, for me, it’s great networking and exposure to the social work and youth field.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 23, I live downtown in Houston, and my friends call me Prince. I’m a youth ambassador for the Salvation Army Houston, and I was homeless so I speak up on that a lot. I was in and out of various systems. The main thing about me is that I’m a champion for change for generations to come.
You were recently a part of a number of training and advocacy events, what was your role in these events and how do you think they made a difference?
Yes, for example, I’ve helped CPS and youth programs prevent runaways, and think about [the issue] from a youth point of view. We were able to teach them from our perspectives.
When I go to the Capitol, I speak on different bills – to the senate or house or representative –speak on the bills that I can relate to.
I got to meet officials and professionals and see their true emotion on the problems that we’re starting to bring awareness to. There were raw emotions, and that was really good to see.
Do you notice anything different about yourself since being part of the YALC and these events?
Yes. Personally, I actually have felt like I’ve built a brand with my name, myself. TNOYS helps expose a side of me, helps expose me to a side of things, that I didn’t know and build an impact. If I wasn’t with TNOYS, I wouldn’t be studying different legislation that is in place or should go through – or paying so much attention to detail in the system.
What hopes do you have for the future of the YALC?
Personally, I’m thinking you could turn it into a mentorship program across the state, to bring in more youth through the [TNOYS and YALC] members different cities, to really branch out deeper in different communities. I’ve been trying to mentor other youth to do this kind of work.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
On my behalf, I just want to say thank you. And, put this in quotation marks: “this is only the beginning.”