At an intimate ceremony last Friday afternoon, a group of 14 South Sacramento youth were honored for their successful competition of the three-month-long Summer Youth Leadership Academy hosted by Sac BHC. Co-directed by Shakeya Bell and Araiye Thomas-Haysbery, this highly-intensive workshop included many presentations from BHC partner agencies and leaders in order to immerse its participants with a deeper understanding of social justice and the means to leverage policy-makers and their civil rights in order to make meaningful changes to their communities.
“I thought I would be teaching you, but you all were teaching me,” Bell told the youth at the ceremony before three individual groups gave presentations concerning the issues they planned to address with their newfound knowledge of the local policy-creating landscape. Each completed project narrative identified complex and relevant issues which highly affect young people in South Sacramento in a consequential manner and which the youth would like to remedy. Their solutions were anything but pie-in-the-sky wishes- instead they were deliberate plans-of-action with multipronged approaches to win over the hearts and minds of the community while putting the pressure on locally elected leaders to do something to create a meaningful impact to the problem, quickly.
“I thought the program was great,” said Ethan Lee, a 17-year-old West Campus High School student and program participant. “I got to meet people who wanted to engage, and it was amazing because this summer I was active in the community for a chance, and I got to learn new stuff that really matters.”
Lee admits that he initially had lower expectations for the workshop series, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the meetings were valuable and inspiring, while at the same time illuminating the systems around him that impact his life on a day-to-day basis and providing him with the knowledge to do something to change them.
“I thought the program would just be kids coming in and leaving, but everyone was engaged and everyone had a voice,” said Lee. “Everyone was super positive and spoke about what was on their mind. Before this, I thought we would just be on our phones and social media, but really there are lots of people here who have something to say, and it goes both ways. The youth are even teaching the adults new things.”
Going forward, Lee says that he will participate in more policy-changing opportunities.
“I want to go to City Hall meetings, I didn’t know about them before. I want to help youth, I want to help someone’s life like mine was helped. It was great to use this summer for learning.”
To see photos of the graduation please click here…