By: A-ron Orpilla, DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator
Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff
This past weekend, DC Elementary (ES) and DC Middle and High School (MSHS) Youth Council leaders participated in a retreat to build community with one another. During this retreat, youth met their new mentors/mentees, participated in team-building activities, presented projects, and explored the importance of their experiences with leadership. This retreat left youth excited for what the year has in store for them, knowing that they have new friends and allies.
Both ES and MSHS youth have done amazing work for the community last year. ES youth did an impressive podcast discussing their stories related to immigration to the United States and the challenges that they have faced. Middle and high school conducted a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project addressing the issues of gentrification in DC Chinatown. During the retreat, youth shared their respective projects with each other and discussed how the projects fostered their development as leaders.
This year, we as coordinators wanted to bridge the age gap between ES youth and MSHS youth. We wanted to create a space for DC Youth Council leaders to deeply connect with one another and collaborate on various projects. Our hope is that they feel more inspired by the community work that they are doing as well as motivate each other to be the best that they can be.
Youth Council Allies (YCA) was established for high school youth council members to serve as mentors for elementary and middle school youth council. YCA’s purpose is to support the transition of AALEAD youth from elementary through middle and high school. In their ally pairs, youth discussed what allyship means to them before creating an “Ally Agreement.”
DC Youth Council has many responsibilities this year, but knowing that their allies and community will always be there to support them will help them achieve their goals!
The DC AALEAD Youth Council is a collective of youth who organize together to address the needs of both the AALEAD community and the greater Washington D.C. community. Through Youth Council, youth take on leadership roles and gain skills in event planning, group facilitation, and community outreach. Youth Council Leaders shape programming through generating ideas and bringing the needs of their peers to the planning process. Youth Council is an invaluable opportunity to grow as a leader and advocate, both in programs and the larger community.