System reform iconSystem Reform

Montrai Williams

power of youth summary


Each year we have a pre-Youth Advocacy Day (YAD) article and a post-YAD article. Each year, we write about our experience at YAD, what past YAD’s have been like, and how we grow after every YAD. At Mockingbird’s headquarters we debrief as a gro

up. This year Jim Theofelis, Mockingbird Youth Network and Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness (YAEH) participants, and I will share some of our thoughts with you! Each of our six chapters across the state will give a two-sentence comment on their YAD experience; our Executive Director and YAEH participants will give a quote on their presence and feelings during YAD, and the Network Representatives will answer a few questions so you can get to know what we felt during the amazing and intense YAD event.

Tacoma Chapter — Chapter leaders Essence and Fernando say, “From the hundreds of loving, caring, and supportive people that listened to our testimonies, to the Legislature that got to listen to the hundreds of other testimonies: it feels good to see youth and adults come together for positive cause and change.”

Seattle Chapter — For Seattle chapter member James, this was his first YAD and he says he can’t wait until next year. Chapter member Jessica says, “This was an absolutely inspiring and empowering opportunity for many foster youth and alumni to work together for a common goal. It was a successful day full of energy, powerful testimonies, and passion.”

Everett Chapter — Everett chapter leader Melisa says that YAD this year was an empowering success.

Yakima Chapter — Chapter leader Jade Tillequots says she absolutely enjoyed it, and this year was better than the last!

YAEH — “Youth Advocacy Day gave my peers and I a chance to tell our stories. We were able to meet with policymakers to help reform practices regarding foster and homeless youth. YAD reminded me of the importance of disadvantaged young peopl

e having a say in programs that directly impact us. — Anonymous

Jim Theofelis — “All lives matter! To the youth and young adults who know the trauma and darkness of foster care, homelessness, and incarceration, I say: YOUR LIFE MATTERS!”

The Network representatives say:

Why is YAD important to you?
Sr. Network Representative Deonate says, “as a youth who spent his whole life in foster care prior to age 18, I believe that reform within the child welfare system is a must. Also, I believe that youth are the ones who are most qualified to lead these reforms because they have first-hand experience within the system.”

How many Youth Advocacy Days have you attended?
Sr. Network Representative Mandy says,“I have attended four YADs now, from 2011-2015.”

What is your favorite YAD experience?
Network Representative Mykell says, “My favorite YAD was when we got to see a floor vote. It was a very emotional time for a lot of my peers, because we got to see change that we made happen with our voices.”

Do you think that your personal story made an impact at YAD? If yes, how?
Sr. Network Representative Mandy says, “I have to say yes, our personal stories make such a huge impact at YAD. We change the minds of legislators every year, just by giving that face to the issues and priorities we talk about.”

 

Our rally and march is the moment when everyone gives their all so that the entire Capitol can hear us! What is the importance of our rally and march?
Sr. Network Representative Mandy says, “I think the importance of the rally and march is to make sure everyone on the capitol hears one united voice for change, asking for positive change for our children.”

 

As a facilitator for YAD what do you do to prepare for YAD?
Sr. Network Representative Violet says, “I make sure that I stay in touch with the Mockingbird Youth Network chapter members that are going to attend, as well as the youth from partnering agencies. Having that connection prior to the event is crucial. I also try to practice any speaking points that I have until I don’t have to read from the paper. And I always want to stay up on the schedule because last-minute changes are always occurring.” 

Speaking for myself and other Mockingbird staff, we do all we can to increase our nu

mbers at YAD, by getting more youth, allies, foster parents and service providers to attend, because our presence is stronger in numbers.

If you hate how something is, you have the power to change it. My organization is about changing the perspective people have about foster care and homeless youth. I’m telling you, it’s an experience you must be present to understand. I guarantee coming to YAD will have you feeling like Will Smith at the beginning of “Men in Black 3”: LIKE A BOSS!

Now it’s your turn. Tell us how your experience was at this year’s Youth Advocacy Day. Send your comments to Paula Carvalho at
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2020 Archives

We Welcome
Your Work

We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ mockingbirdsociety.org. Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.