TNOYS always looks to empower young people in decision-making about their own lives and communities. One of our young adult partners, Franklin Pierce, testified during the 86th legislative session in 2019 and was excited to be involved in TNOYS’ policy work once again this year. Thanks in part to Franklin’s testimony in 2019, TNOYS and our members were able to secure several exciting wins at the Capitol.
Franklin told us that his lived experience inspires him to advocate for other youth and young adults in any way he can. Franklin’s life with his mom and dad was marked by conflict and substance abuse, and he experienced homelessness while in school. Despite these obstacles, Franklin graduated high school and was able to successfully get on his feet as a young adult thanks to the transitional living program at TNOYS member Lifeworks.
We sat down with Franklin to learn more about his experience working with TNOYS on our policy work, and his hopes for the upcoming legislative session.
I know that your own lived experience has inspired you to help young people. How has your experience helped you advocate for others?
For me deciding to be an advocate involved a lot of self-reflection, and coming to grips with where I’ve been. You’ve probably heard the saying “you can’t help other people if you can’t help yourself.” A big part of advocacy is understanding your limits and experience, and what you can do. My goal is to not just advocate for young adults experiencing homelessness, but to advocate for the treatment of youth at home and the services they’re receiving.
What made you want to get involved with TNOYS?
I first got involved with TNOYS when I was asked to speak at events; I just loved the energy that TNOYS brings and what they stand for. I especially loved speaking at the annual conference as part of my work with the VOICE (Venturing on Into Community Engagement) Project, which was a program that works with young adults transitioning from homelessness into housing into “Rapid Rehousing” programs. It was great to be a part of all these different groups that were speaking on a wide range of topics that affect youth.
In addition to speaking at events, you also testified at the Texas Capitol in 2019, during the last legislative session. What was that like?
It’s a little overwhelming and surreal to realize that what you say in that situation could be really impactful. My main takeaway was how impressed I was by the other young adults who got on stage to testify. I was just blown away by the professionalism of these young adults and to see what they’re passionate about. It was also cool to be able to see how legislators reacted. I do think the young adults’ voices are powerful and have a lot of weight to them.
To prepare for the next legislative session, TNOYS heard from you and other young adults. Tell me about your takeaways from that experience?
It was great to hear the other youth and young adults’ stories, because we all have different personalities, we all have different experiences— especially in the subjects of mental health, homelessness, or being in school.
A big highlight for me was the discussion about supporting young people in schools. Mental health in schools is very important, and that’s something a lot of people overlook. That conversation really resonated with me as someone who experienced homelessness and had to get themselves up every day for school— trying to make sure you’re not late because if you’re late once, you’re in trouble. This was a very rough time for me, but it was also so satisfying to walk across the graduation stage.
The next legislative session is right around the corner. How do you think youth stories and experience can make a difference?
Our work made a big impact during the last session, and I’m hoping we can see even more changes— especially because COVID has greatly impacted young adults and youth. I’m certain that new situations and struggles have arisen. Right now, many youth and young adults might not have resources to get a mask, to social distance, to get the healthcare they need. This is a situation that a lot of people are having, and policymakers might not be putting the pandemic and youth homelessness together. I’m hoping that legislation can take what they’re learning from this and apply it to how they’re helping youth and young adults.
What do you hope policy makers will keep in mind as they work on legislation?
One thing that is a high priority is mental health, especially when it comes to mental health in school systems. Especially now, it would be great to get more funding and support in school systems. I would also like to see more education and understanding about homelessness in the schools. Those are the two biggest things for me, as they could help on a large scale for youth experiencing homelessness in Texas.