Nonprofit organizations work in conjunction with many other programs. We rely on community partnerships because “we build on the synergy.” By working together we ensure the needs of our community are met to the fullest potential possible. One amazing partner, Youth N Action, represents that ideal. I have the opportunity to work alongside a program organized, led, structured, and directed by young people, teenagers to young adults 24. So I wanted to sit down with some of the key members of Youth N Action. (Key to me because I see the members most often doing what leaders do.)
As all interviewers, I came to the interview with some simple question, idealistic in the way it would work. But like many things in life, there are no simple answers. When you have a group ran by and organized by teens there is a lot going on. They love to share what they are doing and want to get the message out to other communities. Their hope, passion, is that other young people will step up and be the voice in their community.
Persephone Magazine: What is Youth N Action?
KeAndra: That is really hard to state.
Persephone Magazine: True, but what do you want to accomplish with Youth N Action?
KeAndra: Youth N Action gives youth a voice in the community.
Brian: Youth N Action is a dynamic organization who is there to respond to community needs. We feel that youth are the most qualified to identify the needs of youth. Youth can meet those needs. Some of the ways we meet needs in the community is organizing a “project.” Our projects have been very diverse. Our folks have a lot of great ideas. We take those ideas and put a plan into action.
Persephone Magazine: You have mentioned that Youth N Action has diverse projects. What does Youth in Action do?
KeAndra: We have a CHOICE CafÃ©. The goal with the CafÃ© is to provide a safe place to kids to be off the street, to provide a healthy meal and a place to come in and be.
Brian: CHOICE CafÃ© started as a student’s senior project. We felt that it provided a great service to our teens and have continued it. Youth N Action supports activities in the community that we feel are beneficial to kids.
Mike: We have the computer lab. We use this to train youth into positions of leadership, empowering them to take charge. It is not just a place to play games all day.
Brian: We also have a recording studio that Mike works with.
Mike: We provide lessons.
Persephone Magazine: What type of lessons?
Mike: Instrument, audio production, how to run a band, video recording, and sound engineering. I recently provided training on digital storytelling, giving kids a positive way to express their life story. Some learn to conduct interviews. The goal is to give youth a voice.
Brian: We also partner with other programs. We were approached by another organization, Shelton High School, to help coordinate a “˜Helmet Rodeo’. The Rodeo’s goal was to provide bike helmets and bike safety education. We felt that this was a worthwhile cause and supported them. Do you want to talk about Prevention Policy Day? You all or Miles?
Persephone Magazine: Is that the one you went to capital campus in Olympia? So what did you do?
Maricha: All three of us went. We went to the capital and there was a convention thing going on. We listened to several groups on the topic of prevention. We grouped together and had a little chant thing and shared our support. The tag line of the day was “an ounce of prevention”¦”
Mike: “”¦is worth a pound of cure.”
Maricha: We even met with Kathy Haigh, our 35th district house representative.
Persephone Magazine: How would you judge Kathy’s reaction? Could you describe how she responded?
Mike: Good. She was very supportive and welcoming.
Maricha: She wanted us to know that she supported us and wanted to help us.
Mike: She felt our shizzle was off the dizzle.
Marica: KeAndra told her the youth have a voice and our purpose (Youth N Action) is to listen to that voice and get resource to that need, to let them know we are listening, and to help them.
KeAndra: We have also attended trainings and conferences. I went with the group TOGETHER for a youth prevention summit. I attended several trainings and was able to bring back information to my group. One training by TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) was amazing. They presented on different ways to do drug prevention. There was like 30 or 40 different workshops. The conference was really cool and HUGE. One of the best trainings was “Ways for success for teens.”Persephone Magazine: What did you bring back to share with others?
KeAndra: Life skills. I went to Success in Your Life. We learned about how to get your life where you want it even if things don’t go the way you want it.
Persephone Magazine: How would someone be able to recreate Youth N Action in their community?
Marchica: I am already trying to do that.
KeAndra: Youth N Action is looking at expanding into other local communities.
Mike: They just need another Mike and they would have it all.
Marchica: Is that what I should do?
KeAndra: They should really research it. It is a LOT of work.
Miles: They should take a facilitators conscientious training. There are no leaders.
Persephone Magazine: What do you mean by no leaders? Does everyone has an equal voice?
Miles: I don’t mean that no one is a leader, but that everyone is a leader.
Brian: Leadership in Youth N Action is typically comes from people taking up what they are activities and things they interested in and recruiting each other to work on those. We don’t vote for each other, but if you have something you are interested in like music or digital storytelling, then you are the one taking that on. That is leading. And when other people tack onto that then you are providing motivation. It is a different model of leadership, not based on “authority” but based on “what are you good at, what do you want to do?”
For more information on Youth N Action in Mason County, please visit http://www.youthempowermentstrategies.org/yes-collaborations.html