Leaders for Change Conference 2017 – Highlights!

Noah Nash/ December 27, 2017/ FYA

Youth leaders at the Showcase of Youth Action

“STAND TALL! TOGETHER WE’RE STRONGER”! – The chant starts as a barely audible whisper, growing louder and louder with each repeat, until the culminating roar and cascade of cheering and clapping.  This moving chant was the theme of this year’s Leaders for Change (L4C) Conference, and it could be heard filling the rooms and into the halls of the National 4-H Conference Center October 21-24th as over 120 young people and adult allies from 23 foster youth-led groups came together in solidarity to grow their skills as foster youth organizers and advocates, share strategies for building power in their groups, and connect with a community of change agents across the nation.

Rallying for Change at the US Supreme Court

L4C – led by FYA’s national youth organizing & leadership committee Leaders United  – is an annual convening of FYA’s network partners built on FYA’s approach to movement building, including: training & equipping foster youth organizers; building the capacity of foster youth-led groups; creating community; and growing the field of foster youth organizing for radical change in the child welfare system.

Leaders United Committee getting ready for the conference

Throughout the conference, Leaders United (LU) members created a space where youth leaders and their allies felt empowered AND deeply connected. The sense of family was what stood out strongest, embodied in the frequent and spontaneous “L4C! FAM-ILY!” call-and-response chants and our popular #L4CFamily hashtag.

Youth from Florida Youth Shine getting ready for the Rally

With #L4CFamily centered in their work, LU kicked off the conference with a powerful welcoming session that hyped up the crowd, broke the ice, and grounded us for the days ahead.  The days that followed were jam-packed with opportunities to build connections, showcase local action, build organizing skills, and raise up priority issues from young people across the country! During our Showcase of Action, all 23 delegations presented their work and policy accomplishments to a raucous audience of their peers, while hundreds of others around the country tuned in through Facebook live.

Powerful signs at Rally For Change

On the last day of the conference, LU brought it all full circle, leading participants in an uplifting Rally for Change at the US Supreme Court. Holding poignant signs they made themselves, young leaders educated pedestrians and their peers on social media about their own stories and national priority issues. By the end of the event, most realized they we weren’t alone, but part of a strong family of advocates joined through trust, power, and love.     

Go Here for a full report of the conference in pdf form.  

At the Supreme Court Steps