TNOYS has always made it a priority to elevate the voices of youth in a variety of ways in our policy work. Hearing directly from youth with lived experience in the youth services and child welfare system has a powerful impact on all who witness it. It is especially important that the lawmakers who create policy that affects these youth hear their perspectives.
Beyond the biennial Youth in Action event, TNOYS regularly facilitates and supports the testimony of our youth and young adult partners on key issues. So far this session, we have facilitated two instances of legislative testimony by youth during key finance hearings and hosted a briefing for legislative staffers on youth homelessness.
The photo here was taken just after TNOYS’ Youth Specialist Lyric Wardlow and Young Adult Leadership Council member, Justin, testified before Senator Jane Nelson and the Senate Finance Committee. Lyric recalls the experience:
When I first walked into the room where the Senate Finance Committee was hearing testimonies, I was not there to testify myself. My current role at TNOYS is to support other youth in accessing key opportunities like this to make a real difference in the youth services system and help TNOYS achieve its mission. My main goal that day was to see our youth partners thrive and be heard.
One of the youth (Justin) that I support testified to a group of representatives and decisionmakers. He was telling the story of his past and the things that took place while he was involved in different systems. The audience started nod their heads in agreement; some of them had looks of amazement at how eloquently and passionately he spoke.
Hearing him, seeing that, made me want to tell my story too. Staffers were almost in tears from our testimony. The moment was so meaningful that the energy in the room vibrated. I knew then that I had something important to say. Not about my past, but my present. About the position in life that I created for myself at that very moment. Once upon a time, 4 years ago, I was just an anonymous girl at a bus stop downtown. I knew that testifying on this day at the Capitol was a chance for me to show what a girl who felt so insignificant before could be like now in front of people who can make a change. It was my chance to change the world myself.
Check back on our 86thTexas Legislature page for youth, staff, and member testimony as it occurs.