For many years, TNOYS has been committed to elevating youth voice and advancing youth engagement in decisions that impact their lives. We do this through a variety of programs, such as our Youth in Action Capitol Day and Young Adult Leadership Council, and in the way we incorporate youth as equal participants in our Annual Conference. But research and evidence have shown us that the best way to truly engage youth is to do so in an ongoing, substantive manner and compensate them for their time and input. That’s why we have brought several young adults who have lived experience with the issues we work on onto our staff this year. We have found this move to be incredibly valuable – it not only provides great professional experience for young people but also greatly enhances TNOYS’ own work to support youth across Texas.
We are excited to introduce you to our newest young adult staff members:
Lyric Wardlow joined TNOYS in December 2018 as a Program Specialist focusing on our youth engagement efforts. In this capacity, she leads TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council, helping to provide guidance to YALC members and help coordinate with TNOYS staff to incorporate them into our work. She also played a critical role in programming for youth attendees at our 2018 Annual Conference. Lyric experienced homelessness at a young age and is passionate about supporting others who have faced similar challenges.
Justin “Prince” Hayward joined TNOYS as a Policy Specialist in August 2019. Prince was formerly a member of our YALC and played a critical role in our policy efforts during the 86th Texas Legislative Session by testifying several times about his experience with homelessness, which helped secure some of the first state funding specifically to support youth experiencing homelessness. He also played a key role as a presenter in our series of Building Alliances trainings over the past year, that helped providers better understand and prevent youth running away from foster care. Prince now works with our Policy Director Lauren Rose to support TNOYS’ full spectrum of policy advocacy efforts.
Alex Polk was also formerly a member of TNOYS’ YALC. Alex is a talented writer, speaker, and photographer, who was a workshop presenter at the past two TNOYS Annual Conferences and also provided photography support at the 2019 Annual Conference. He is working with TNOYS as a communications specialist, assisting with writing projects, photography, web updates, and more. Alex is passionate about homelessness and LGBTQ issues and has been particularly helpful to TNOYS as an expert and trainer on topics related to serving LGBTQ youth.
We are very grateful to have these talented young adults as an official part of our team. It has shown us first-hand the value of substantive youth engagement for those working in our field.