Young Adult Participants Reflect on TNOYS’ Annual Conference


One of the things that truly sets TNOYS’ Annual Conference apart is the fact that youth and young adults are fully integrated as planners, presenters, and participants. It is part of TNOYS’ commitment to elevating youth voice and encouraging youth engagement in decisions that impact their lives — an approach that has been proven to improve services and outcomes. Here, Alex Polk and Charles Batiste, two members of TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) who participated in this year’s conference as attendees, presenters, and support for the TNOYS team on the ground, share their perspectives on the event.

What was it like for you to help present workshops at the conference?

  • Alex: It’s very empowering. Having a safe space to share myself is one thing, but being able to share myself and my knowledge to benefit others in their work and the youth they work with directly is incredibly fulfilling and gives me purpose. 
  • Charles: This year was amazing. To actually be a part of a team to host a statewide conference … was an honor and I enjoyed and learned from every minute of jumping into my superpower! Working with a team/family to help create smooth sailing for the workshop and conference was awesome. I enjoyed orchestrating the different sessions and the positive interactions with so many different people who came here for one thing….. to learn! I loved it and already look forward to next year’s conference!

What was it like to participate in sessions as an attendee alongside other youth/young adult & adult participants? 

  • Alex: It was very collaborative — there were many sessions in which open questions were asked about particular issues the various organizations were having and the young people easily collaborated and shared their insight to help the adults better their work. I saw the progress being made right before my eyes. 
  • Charles: This year I was totally active in this conference and I like that TNOYS put youth in charge of the different workshops and let us be involved in the event’s communications and marketing. It was a good learning experience to show we do have a voice. It means a lot when young adults can work equally alongside an adult and get paid! So many positive vibes were thrown my way, just a great atmosphere It’s always great to network or collaborate with youth and young adults who knows what you just might learn — who better to help fix a problem then a person that has been through that sort of problem?

What kind of information did you learn in the youth leadership track workshops?

  • Alex: I learned how crucial youth voice is in the process of making things work.
  • Charles: I learned a lot from the conference as I always do but, two takeaways I would like to point out are:
  1. We have to stop being scared to set our youth of whatever color in the position to succeed without barriers and qualifications.
  2. “If you starve a person too long, they will leave and seek food from another place” — meaning that if you keep hiding the truth and don’t want to help, youth will go find what they need in the streets.

Do you have any final observations or insights on behalf of youth or young adults involved in the conference?

  • Alex: For me, this conference invited me to look inward. It helped me change my perspective and hopefully the perspectives of the other young adult attendees. It also gave me confidence in myself — there was a moment I was asked “what’s your superpower?” Without thinking too far into it, I blurted out “my voice.” As I thought about it more later that night I felt the previously mentioned sense of empowerment. So many other young adults I know struggle to feel that, so many of us so desperately want to be heard and genuinely listened to and looking back I am so grateful for being able to use my voice, be heard and actually be listened to. Because it shows me what my voice and the voice of my peers can make real change happen. 
  • Charles: Youth and young adults want to be involved but just don’t know how!

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