Dear Friends and Allies,
As you will read in the pages that follow, these past few months have been an incredible time for the growth of youth leadership at The Mockingbird Society (TMS). These are not just opportunities TMS has developed, but rather the result of our youth colleagues taking the initiative and stepping up to take on leadership challenges. As I work alongside these incredible young people I can’t help but notice how differently they perceive the work in front of us.
In their advocacy work, they are confronted with the complexities of the child welfare system and the issues surrounding youth and young adult homelessness. In this situation, some adult professionals and policy makers can get stuck “admiring the problem” rather than solving it. In some cases, the young people themselves can come to be viewed as the problem. Much has been said about the millennial generation. The stereotype that stands out most to me is the idea that millennials are selfish, preferring to be on their phones rather than to contribute to society. This stereotype could not be further from my experiences with the young people I have had the privilege to work with. In fact, studies show that millennials are the most civic-minded generation since the 1940’s and over 80% report that engaging in work that gives back to their communities is a priority.
At The Mockingbird Society we know this to be true. Each year, hundreds of Mockingbird youth advocates across the state come together to develop new solutions to the seemingly intractable problems we face. They work collaboratively, understanding that the whole is only as strong as its parts. Together they are building an inspiring vision for the future and are driving us towards the innovative solutions that will transform foster care and end youth homelessness. These young people are able to look at the world and see it “as it could be” rather than “as it is”. Their lived experience makes them uniquely qualified to embrace the challenges in front of us. Having already overcome so much in their own lives, they know firsthand the importance of a strong community. In the words of Maya Angelou, “Nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone.”
At a time when our political systems are shaped by division, an “us vs. them” mentality, and zero-sum gamesmanship, I find hope and inspiration in the example these Mockingbird youth are setting. I look to them for the way forward. As we all should.