“Them?” Who is “them?”
Them: The marginalized. The ones who feel disengaged, disconnected, aimless, frustrated, lost. The youth in our community. That’s them.
One member of a Windham Youth Advocacy Collective branch group, the Organizing Team, helped us take a significant step forward in making those lost voices heard. She surveyed almost 100 youth in our community and asked questions that the youth are probably not asked enough.
Some of those questions were: What are your goals (career and/or personal) for the future? What supports (opportunities, people, connections, skills) help you make progress toward your goals? What holds you back from moving toward your goals? Are there advantages or resources you see that other people have that you don’t have access to? What are some NEW opportunities, skills, experiences or connections that you wish were available to help you on your path?
At one of the Organizing Team’s most recent meetings, we divided into two teams, one to analyze the barriers that youth said they had which are keeping them from accomplishing their goals, and another to analyze what opportunities they said that they want. We came back together, and as a group, discussed the barriers and the opportunities that were discovered upon analysis. There was a mixture of emotions from talking about these surveys. Disappointment is of course one of them, because it is disappointing to hear that the generation we are supposed to support and set up for success have said that they feel there are no legitimate support systems available to them. Youth feel stuck dealing with these struggles because there are no resources to utilize and nobody to simply listen to them. It appears from their point of view, that the ears that listen have scattered and become few and far between, and that there are not enough to help them achieve success.
That disappointment laid the groundwork for the more common emotion that was felt: Hope. After the opportunities that youth want were revealed, it gave the Collective something that once seemed very far away: Genuine solutions.
So take a look at these photos, and pay closer attention to the future. We at the Windham Youth Advocacy Collective are here to listen to these youth voices to try and bring everyone who will listen together and come up with real solutions for THEM.