In 2018, TNOYS launched the Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) to engage youth and young adult leaders with lived experiences from across Texas. The first iteration of the YALC served as an advisory council for TNOYS as the organization took intentional steps to solidify its youth and young adult network.
With the arrival of TNOYS’ new Executive Director Fedora Galasso in August 2020 and Josue Rodriguez joining as the Engagement Manager in October 2020, TNOYS was committed to strengthening our youth engagement programming and building more opportunities for youth-adult partnership in our work. This work started the launching a reimagined Young Adult Leadership Council in January 2021.
TNOYS’ Youth Engagement Roadmap (above) describes the various opportunities for youth and young adults to engage in TNOYS’ work.
The new YALC centers youth voice in all aspects of TNOYS’ work from storytelling to youth-led training to policy advocacy, and much more. The YALC is a ten-month, paid, work-based learning program with members between the ages of 16 to 25 who have lived experience with foster care, homelessness, or other systems-involvement, and who have a demonstrated interest in or potential for leadership or advocacy.
How Does A Young Person Benefit From Joining the YALC?
The YALC curriculum takes on a holistic and nuanced approach to understanding, dissecting, and unpacking TNOYS’ seven systems areas. These include housing and homelessness services, child welfare, justice, education, workforce, health and behavioral health, and victim and survivor services. In keeping with the model of youth-adult partnerships, professional experts who work in these systems are invited to come to speak to the YALC, participate in honest, engaging conversations about these systems and in turn learn from the lived experts on the YALC.
The curriculum also provides YALC members key professional development opportunities to grow both professionally and personally like project management, public speaking, storytelling, conflict resolution, and so much more. TNOYS also made the conscious decision to incorporate a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) lens to its YALC program through DEI trainings, discussions on pronouns, gender expression, and identities to list a few activities.
YALC members are involved in every aspect of TNOYS’ work, from flagship events like the Annual Conference to opportunities for digital advocacy and advocacy at the Texas Capitol. Below are just a few highlights of the work TNOYS’ reimagined YALC has been involved with so far:
- Advocacy and testimony during the 87th Texas Legislative Session,
- Participation in multiple storytelling videos and blog posts,
- Participation in the 38th Annual Conference and 2021 TEHCY Program Summit as workshop presenters and speakers,
- Conducting Youth Participatory Research with over 20 youth in the foster care system to update the PAL guides,
- Work on developing questions and responses for TNOYS Digital Town Halls
Learnings from the Reimagined YALC Program
A key focus of TNOYS’ reimagined YALC is a commitment to ensuring that YALC members feel like they are being seen as valued experts and leaders, and that they are given tools and resources to advocate for systems that are supportive of all young people.
TNOYS is committed to creating space for YALC members from diverse populations and different systems-involvement to ensure they could fully participate in the YALC curriculum while also making sure their personal and situational needs were being met. TNOYS has found that balance through the flexibility of its staff and the flexibility offered by the YALC curriculum to ensure it is meeting young people where they are at.
What’s New About the 2021 – 2022 Cohort?
Members of the TNOYS team and Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) Fall 2021 cohort (pictured above).
The new YALC cohorts began on Friday, September 24, 2021, with 11 new members and six returning members. YALC members convened for a day-long virtual onboarding session where they met with TNOYS staff, introduced themselves to each other, participated in team-building activities, and discussed the foundation of the YALC program and the underpinnings of TNOYS’ work along with getting a preview of the program’s curriculum. Returning YALC members put their leadership into action by leading sections of the onboarding, answering questions about the YALC, and showcasing their learnings from their time at TNOYS.
“The YALC has allowed me the space to be comfortable – to be my true authentic self. During my time with the YALC, I have learned that I’m so much stronger and capable of doing so much,” said Brenda Woolley, YALC Member
TNOYS is extremely excited about the new cohort and appreciates the opportunity to continue working with young people across Texas to make an impact and has a lot in store for them this year.