Power of One
I joined The Mockingbird Society in January of 2016. Since then, I have had experiences and met people that challenged my very deep beliefs about others, my outlook on life, and my perspective on my own experiences with homelessness. I have also had opportunities that allowed me to grow as a person, and to develop and strengthen skills that will stay with me as I transition from my role as a Youth Network Representative to whatever may come next in my life.
I became involved in this work with Mockingbird through a Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness (YAEH) Chapter Meeting. I joined this meeting for the sole purpose of eating the food there, but I left feeling a little different; I left with a better understanding of homelessness and a hunger to be part of something that seemed very important to me. Since that first meeting, I became a Network Representative at Mockingbird’s headquarters and have taken every opportunity available to voice my concerns and offer perspectives that are rooted in my personal experiences.
Shortly after becoming a Network Representative, I became an Executive Member of the National Youth Forum on Ending Homelessness (NYFEH) – a group of youth advocates from all over the country with personal experiences of homelessness. As a member of this group, I gave feedback on the plan A Way Home America (AWHA) is preparing to present to the next Presidential Administration. I highlighted the strategic position of schools and the role they can play in the national plan to end youth homelessness. In July of 2016, I went to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) conference in Washington D.C. to meet all the other members of the NYFEH and to present to the advisors for AWHA. It was very empowering to be part of the planning of an initiative that could possibly end youth homelessness.
I had also been involved in other opportunities that have challenged me to develop and strengthen my public speaking and leadership skills. Through practice and repetition, I have become comfortable speaking publicly and sharing my ideas and experiences in a way that is persuasive and effective. In September, I gave a fifteen minute speech to a crowd of 500 people at The Mockingbird Society Luncheon as the Keynote speaker. It felt very empowering to share my story to such a big audience and to actively use the skills I’ve learned to empower others to make change.
I leave The Mockingbird Society a little different than when I attended my first YAEH Chapter Meeting. Throughout my time at Mockingbird, I have met people that have widened my understanding of homelessness, many of whom have endured the same challenges that I face on the streets. I feel fortunate to have been part of this work and to be able to use my experiences to advocate for changes that will affect the lives of vulnerable and homeless youth. I look forward to more advocacy opportunities in the future.