FYA Partners Weave Web of Connections

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FYA PARTNERS WEAVE WEB OF CONNECTIONS

A network cannot hold merely through threads radiating out from the center.  Our strength and resilience comes not just from the depth of FYA’s connections to each of our partners, but through the connections and links between and among them.   These cross-network partnerships are blossoming at FYA.  See below for two great examples of how our partners are growing their own connections, joining in collaboration, and seeking each other out for ideas, support and community.

Southern Road Trip: Georgia EmpowerMEnt and Florida Youth Shine secure grant to share organizing and advocacy lessons face-to-face!

With deep bases of organized foster youth, both these FYA partners are effective, respected, and influential actors in child welfare in their respective states, and yet still eager to get stronger.  Recognizing that each had much to learn about their organizing and advocacy, Florida Youth Shine and Georgia EmpowerMEnt jumped at recent grant opportunity to promote a face-to-face learning exchange.  We were so pleased to hear that in early March, the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing saw the potential of this collaboration and made a $5,000 investment.  Soon foster youth organizers from both states have a unique chance to build some collective wisdom face to face. Can we come too?

Crossing Borders: Partnerships forged in New England with Massachusetts’ HEROES and Maine’s YLAT

I heard “rumors” about some interesting collaboration coming together with New England’s FYA partners, so I had to investigate.  Reaching out to adult allies with HEROES and YLAT, I found a budding partnership between these groups, and growing evidence about the power of our network!

I am going to let HEROES’ Sage Curtis describe how honored they have been to forge interstate connections with their northern peers:

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HEROES Youth Truth Performance

Because of the opportunities FYA provides for interstate connections and networking, teens that have experienced foster care in YLAT and HEROES are getting multiple opportunities to meet, connect, and share what they are doing. They may even influence the work we are doing in our respective states. I met the staff from YLAT at FYA’s Leaders for Change conference last year and they showed interest in our annual performance. We invited them to bring a group down to our Performance of Youth Truth 2017 which we do in partnership with Enchanted Circle Theater and the United Congregational Church of Holyoke, and they managed to arrange it on their end. My young people (The HEROES) are excited to get to show people “like us” what we are doing, connect with more people and actually form connections that will last. Knowing that they will get to see them again at the June YLAT conference, and being invited as guest speakers is something they see as a great honor. We see this as a great opportunity to promote youth leadership in the best of ways.

Maine YLAT’’s Shannon Saxby reveals how much they are learning from the ART activism of HEROES.

I firmly believe that FYA not only raises awareness about likeminded organizations, but opens doors for collaborations such as this one. In New England we are pretty fortunate to be in close proximity to one another. Prior to attending [FYA’s Leaders for Change Conference] in

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YLAT Youth Leaders

2015, I had never heard of them, and it’s really exciting to discover such a unique program. They are doing work unlike anyone else I have seen, and we [YLAT] have heard from our young people how important performance and art is not only in self-healing, but in getting the community engaged and again, aware, about the needs of youth in care. YLAT is taking a group of Alumni Co-Facilitators to Massachusetts in April to view the dress rehearsal of HEROES’s annual performance. In turn, YLAT has invited members of HEREOS to attend our annual

teen conference in June. Both events will provide young people the opportunity to connect with each other and learn about one another’s programs, and how each of our states “run things”. I can’t emphasize enough the belief I have in the importance of young people realizing they’re not alone! This is a great example of how collaboration can promote that. I hope to identify additional ways we can do work together in the future, and perhaps even bring in our western partners over in Vermont!