TNOYS has a longstanding commitment to elevating youth voice and developing youth-adult alliances so that youth and young adults can have a say on the issues and decisions that impact their lives. TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC), launched just last year, has already provided its members with dozens of opportunities to do just that.
The YALC has had a strong start and has formalized the roles of TNOYS youth partners in our systems change work. That’s important to us because we know it has benefits for both our work and the youth themselves — research shows that when youth have a voice and work in partnership with adults it strengthens outcomes for them and makes services more effective. As part of their membership in the YALC, young adults from across the state participate in local and statewide meetings, workshops, and other events in meaningful ways and also are able to receive mentorship and guidance.
At a recent event, there were a lot of service providers, school employees, STAR and Communities in Schools programs, and others. Everyone had a lot to say about things that the needed in their community – and how they could potentially collaborate with youth partners and with other programs. I really think they got something out of the event and everyone seemed to come in with an open mind on what they brought to the table and how they could potentially collaborate with both youth and adults in the future. – Lyric Wardlow, TNOYS’ Youth Specialist and YALC Coordinator
This year, that has included:
- Youth in Action Capitol Day brings hundreds of youth to the Texas Capitol to learn about the legislative process firsthand and advocate for issues to improve the youth services system. YALC members were key in leading and presenting at the event as well as joining other youth in visiting legislative offices
- Additionally, YALC members provided impactful testimony during legislative hearings and committee meetings multiple times so far this session on issues such as homelessness, funding, and supports needed during the transition to adulthood.
- Strategic meetings in Houston and Austin on youth homelessness as well as funding featured YALC members as co-presenters showcasing their lived experience as well as perspectives on how to improve options.
- A webinar on the value of community collaborations and innovative thinking to address youth homelessness featured youth and adult leaders involved in a model initiative [link to recording]
- A major multi-city training series co-hosted by Texas DFPS on preventing runaways from residential treatment centers by building alliances with youth featured a youth-adult training team.
- Recent training and community collaboration events, such as those that have been part of the Hurricane Harvey response initiative Safety Nets for Students and Families, have included young adult partners in both planning and in the events themselves.
TNOYS is in a position to support and strengthen youth-adult patnerships as well as model how these alliances can have clear impacts on policy, practice, and systems change in Texas.
I hope to see YALC members grow as youth advocates – accomplishing new goals and using their voices to make change for other youth just like them. Seeing the YALC train service providers or organizations on how to best work with youth, and the respect given by people working within systems for them and their perspectives, makes me see just how much of an impact these youth make. I hope in the future they’ll all be able to do it full time.– Lyric Wardlow, TNOYS’ Youth Specialist and YALC Coordinator