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  1. Voices’ Youth Advocacy Day Recap

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    (Pictured above: Cohort members and Voices’ staff take a “before” picture before embarking on their legislative meetings.)

    “Keep going. Don’t ever stop. Don’t ever let anybody silence your voice. Don’t ever let you silence your voice. Understand the importance of what you do… Keep pushing, because one day it will really pay off.” – Jonathan, 15 years old, from Hampton, VA

     

    Our 2022 Advocacy Cohort completed their Youth Advocacy Day on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Fifteen youth and young adults, ages 14 – 25, divided into four small but mighty groups to meet with fifteen policymakers (a combination of Delegates and Senators) throughout the afternoon. Advocates presented on key issues impacting themselves and their communities such as the state of youth mental health, improvements for the foster care system, needed supports and protections for LGBTIQIA+ youth, and equitable access to health coverage.

    “I talked about being trans and the discrimination that LGBTQ kids face in schools, and the fact that we endure so much… People are really hateful and spiteful and say horrible things… I’ve been asking for there to be some sort of set punishment and just understanding of why [these protections] are so important.” – Grace, 14 years old

    “Whether we’re fighting for health care or mental health services or more inclusive classrooms or more inclusive language or anything of that nature, my main thing was just making sure that we’re considering our young people every step of the way, because the choices that our policymakers and legislators make today, we’re gonna have to deal with tomorrow.” – Elijah, 14 years old

    Several cohort members and Voices’ staff meet with Del. Conyer

    (Pictured above: Several cohort members and Voices’ staff meet with Del. Conyer.)

    “Mental health is the same thing as your physical health. It’s just as important, if not more important, so we really need to prioritize that and make it so that everybody has equal opportunities.” – Aaliyana, 16 years old

    “I talked about how bullying is equated to hate crimes at the moment and how that’s just unacceptable because they are two very different things. I asked a lot of the people we spoke with to start building [more protective] systems into schools.” – Chanel, 19 years old

    Cohort members presenting to Sen. McClellan’s office with Voices’ Chief Policy Officer, Emily Griffey

    (Pictured above: Cohort members presenting to Sen. McClellan’s office with Voices’ Chief Policy Officer, Emily Griffey.)

    “There’s just a lack of help… because of language access. I also talked about health insurance and… the human right to just being able to access [medical and mental health treatment].” – Naomi, 17 years old

    Cohort members advocate for youth mental health support with Del. Delaney

    (Pictured above: Cohort members advocate for youth mental health support with Del. Delaney.)

    Advocates meeting with Sen. Mason’s offices with Voices’ Policy and Programs Director Allison Gilbreath

    (Pictured above: Advocates meeting with Sen. Mason’s offices with Voices’ Policy and Programs Director Allison Gilbreath.)

    Originally scheduled to be a series of in-person events and legislative meetings, the cohort quickly pivoted in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases and worked together to support and encourage one another throughout the virtual advocacy day. Cohort participants worked with Policy Team members to practice storytelling and connecting their experiences to policy and upcoming legislation.

    This group of changemakers left legislators and the Voices’ team completely inspired, moved, and awe-struck. We know their courageous storytelling is making incredible impact and we were honored and humbled to support them on their advocacy journeys.

  2. Welcome our 2022 Advocacy Cohort!

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    Please welcome our 2022 Advocacy Cohort!

    We are so honored to introduce the members of our 2022 Advocacy Cohort. This group of inspirational youth and young adults is diverse in age, region, advocacy experience, and lived experience. They are excited, eager, and enthusiastic about the work ahead.

    The Advocacy Cohort is in conjunction with Pretty Purposed, a mentorship organization with community-based and school-based programming in Richmond, VA, and the surrounding counties. “Pretty Purposed inspires communities to empower girls and young women.”

    Ava, 15 (she/her), with Brown Ballerinas for Change

    “Be the change you were created to be. Advocacy has no age or limits. You are your ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

     

    Chanel, 19 (she/her)

    “The voices and experiences of the youth are essential for a better-quality future.”

    Drew, 24 (she/her)

    “Be who you needed when you were younger.”

    Elijah, 14 (he/him), with Hear Our Voices

    “When youth are able to come to the table on the issues that affect us, true and long-lasting systemic change is possible.”

    Nicole, 24 (she/her)

    “Fred Rogers says, ‘It’s easy to say not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem. Then there are those who see the need and respond.’ Well here we are, and we are ready to respond and advocate! Virginia is a community worth fighting for!”

    Saniya, 15 (she/her), with Pretty Purposed

    “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”

    Tayonna, 15 (she/her), with Pretty Purposed

    “I am the future for the positive change.”

    Grace, 14 (she/her)

    “I am a trans child and I have a voice that I need to use.”

    Melissa, 23 (she/her)

    “We must come together in one another’s shared experiences and differences as we start to rebuild our communities. It’s no secret it has been a tough few years, but for many the pandemic and ongoing racial injustice has added to the hurt and hardships. People are tired. We need support. We need solutions. We need a system that prioritizes humanity. We need to create a new ‘normal’ and take action that moves us forward.”

    Kennedy, 15 (she/her), with Brown Ballerinas for Change

    Naomi, 17 (she/her)

    “I would say what most inspired me to join the cohort, was my history teacher. She made me see that my opinions matter and that I should fight for what I believe in, she teaches me every day something new and encourages me to keep fighting for myself and my community.”

     

    2022 Advocacy Cohort members not pictured:

    De’marya, 16 (she/her), with Pretty Purposed, said: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

    Aaliyana, 16 (she/her), said: “As young people, we have the responsibility of pursuing and advocating for change so future generations won’t have to experience the same struggles.”

    Jonathan, 15 (he/him), with Hampton World Changers Ambassadors

    Talia, 15 (she/her), with Pretty Purposed

    Brook’lyn, 14 (she/her), with Pretty Purposed

    Oniya, 15 (she/her), with Pretty Purposed 

     

    Supporting this cohort are:

    Lotoria Fowlkes, volunteer and mentor with Pretty Purposed

    Kristin Lennox, Advocacy & Engagement Manager with Voices for Virginia’s Children

    Sign up to receive news about our advocacy cohort and their upcoming advocacy day in January.

  3. 2022 Youth Advocacy Cohort Application

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    Voices for Virginia’s Children is establishing a small cohort of youth advocates, comprised of young change makers, to join us for Advocacy Days at the General Assembly in January 2022. This cohort will learn how to share their stories and experiences with others and provide feedback on policies that affect them. The purpose of the cohort is to create a space for youth to have a voice at the table and establish meaningful change and influence in the systems that have impacted their lives. Included in this opportunity are at least three mandatory training opportunities to develop skills in storytelling and advocacy, $500 compensation (contingent upon participation in all activities), and an overnight stay in Richmond, Virginia (provided by Voices for non-Richmond area residents). The advocacy day event will include a day of legislative visits, a press briefing, and a round table discussion with key administrative staff. The MLK Day Rally (January 17, 2021) and the advocacy day (January 18, 2021) are both in-person events.

    As the only statewide, multi-issue advocacy organization for children and youth, we have several policy areas that would center youth voice and advocacy. As youth apply, they are encouraged to consider their own lived experiences in the following areas. 

    • Foster Care & Child Welfare: You have personally experienced or witnessed a close relative live with non-relatives, relatives, such as grandparents, re-unification with parents or once been at risk of not being placed with family due to a lack of supports. You want to transform the way the world supports families and other young people so that they do not experience the same.   
    • Early Childhood Education: You have personally experienced or witnessed conditions that decrease the ability for all children to experience thriving childhoods. You want to increase access to a quality early childhood education for children so that they can learn, play, and thrive. You want to transform conditions, such as childcare so caregivers can work, provide for their families, and youth are no longer having to choose between providing for their families, caring for their siblings, or attending school. 
    • Community Wealth: You have personally experienced or witnessed conditions of poverty or racism. You want to build wealth for your community and generational wealth for your family by increasing community supports, including housing, more after school or out of school programs, and funding that connects families to resources that decrease poverty. You desire a more promising future for your community, regardless of where an individual lives, works, or plays. You wish to dismantle racism and envision world communities are not plagued by racial, historical, or environmental traumas that contribute to community violence.
    • Community Health: You have personally experienced barriers and challenges to healthcare or have used public health insurance, such as Medicaid. You believe everyone deserves access to quality health outcomes and that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their cultural identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, ability, or age. You believe health should be viewed with a broader lens and want to champion solutions that increase access to care all children to transform conditions that communities of color unjustly experience, such as cancer, obesity, or diabetes.  
    • Food & Nutrition: You have experienced or witnessed challenges accessing healthy and nutritious foods, such as living in a community with no nearby grocery stores or financial challenges to putting food on the table. You want to create a society where everyone is healthy and well and believe in diverse solutions, including eliminating barriers related to one’s immigration status, increasing access to healthy and nutritious foods, drinking water in schools, and wellness days.
    • Mental Health: You have personally needed mental health or behavioral services or resources, such as substance use services, counseling, or in-patient hospitalization. You believe mental health and behavioral health should be normalized and envision a world where supports are no longer seen as a stigma. You believe young people should lead the input to increasing mental health in schools and in their communities, whether peer led, school-based, culturally appropriate, or safe. You envision a world where youth have access to quality mental health and behavioral health services in hospitals, schools, and in their communities.
    • Economic Justice: You or your family have personally experienced not being able to meet your basic needs or struggling to. You believe that every child should have access to food, clothing, and housing. You don’t believe people should be shamed for needing help and want to create general wealth for your families and equalize unequal starting places in life due to poverty or the way in which racism impacts access to financial wealth. You seek to create a world where communities can survive, seek stability, and thrive.
    • Racial Truth and Reconciliation: You have personally experienced or witnessed racial and historical traumas, such as slavery or the indigenous trail of tears and the long-term impacts of that which follow youth and children in their communities, schools, and institutions. You have additionally experienced or witnessed racism and the conditions it creates and want to dismantle racism in every society or system, including the foster care system, the school-to-prison pipeline, racism as a public health crisis, and police brutality. You believe that communities should be viewed as agents in the creation of their change and want to create systems that foster healing and resilience instead of trauma. You envision a world where every child has access to a just future, regardless of their race or ethnic identity.

    Youth (up to 25 years of age) must complete an application to be considered for this opportunity. Youth of color and youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ are strongly encouraged to apply. Deadline for submission is close of business Wednesday, November 24. Youth of color and youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ are strongly encouraged to apply. Events on January 17 and 18 are in-person, and masks will be mandated regardless of vaccination status.

    Please contact Kristin Lennox at kristin@vakids.org for more information.

     

    2022 Youth Advocacy Cohort Application

    Voices for Virginia’s Children is establishing a small cohort of youth advocates, comprised of young change makers to join us for Advocacy Days at the General Assembly in January 2022. This cohort will learn how to share their stories and experiences with others and provide feedback on policies that affect them. The purpose of the cohort is to create a space for youth to have a voice at the table and establish meaningful change and influence in the systems that have impacted their lives. Included in this opportunity are at least three mandatory training opportunities to develop skills in storytelling and advocacy, $500 compensation (contingent upon participation in all activities), and an overnight stay in Richmond, Virginia (provided by Voices for non-Richmond area residents). The advocacy day event will include a day of virtual legislative visits, a press briefing, and a round table discussion with key administrative staff.
    https://www.mypronouns.org/what-and-why
    Email(Required)
    Home Address(Required)
    MM slash DD slash YYYY
    Please note that the maximum age of advocates for this cohort is 25.
    The person listed will be contacted to complete a consent form for your participation
    Race/Ethnicity(Required)
    Which of the following is your area of interest/lived experience?(Required)
    Please see our blog post on the Youth Advocacy 2022 Cohort for more examples of each policy area.
    Are you affiliated with any organizations that you would also be representing as an advocate?
    Some of our trainings will be virtual through Zoom. Are you familiar with Zoom and have access to a device and reliable internet to engage in trainings through Zoom?(Required)
    Can you commit to the following dates and times for trainings? Monday, December 6, 2021, 5pm – 6:30pm (virtual); Monday, January 10, 2022, 5pm – 6:30pm (virtual); Monday, January 17, 2022 (after MLK Day Rally) in-person, times TBD; events on Tuesday, January 18, 2022, in-person, day-long event(Required)
    Events are subject to change as needed. Events on January 18th would require an overnight stay in Richmond, Virginia, with hotel accommodations covered by us for non-Richmond-area residents.
    Max. file size: 300 MB.