Voices’ Blog

Introducing the Members of Virginia’s Youth in Action (VAYA)

Posted:  -  By: Kristin Lennox

collage of VAYA members

Voices for Virginia’s Children is proud to announce the inaugural members of Virginia’s Youth in Action (VAYA). Before starting my role here at Voices, I was a mental health clinician at ChildSavers, a non-profit in Richmond that provides children’s mental health services and child care resources. After years of working one-on-one with my clients, it was clear that even the best therapies I offered could not overcome the impact of the prolonged poverty, systemic racism, and ongoing community violence so many children and youth were experiencing in Richmond. I made the difficult decision to leave full-time clinical work and join the Voices’ team with the hopes that I could advocate for a better, more comprehensive mental health system for children.

Part of my role is to empower young people with lived experience to share their stories for change using a healing-centered model. With VAYA, our goal is to further participants’ empathetic, inclusive perspectives of others through evidence-based, healing-centered curriculums that show the connections between culture, community, and social economics. We hope to strengthen the public speaking, advocacy, and leadership skills of each participant so they are empowered to use their individual and collective voice to make progress in areas where change is slow and unjust. Most importantly, we aim to equip these young leaders to meet the moment as society’s most marginalized communities continue to be underrepresented in decision making.

We received over 60 applications for this inaugural cohort and spent a tremendous amount of time narrowing down the group to 12 individuals. Learn about VAYA and this year’s participants here.

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