Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Reflecting on the Past Year

Holiday Letter from the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates executive director, Maggie Riden.

The holiday season and start to a new year is a natural time of reflection, a time of pause where we recall the poignant moments of the past twelve months. Where we mourn our losses, but also celebrate our successes. As a family of passionate youth advocates, we have a little of both.

Our losses this year are still, for many, very fresh. Marion Barry was a passionate advocate. He was a powerful presence and in many ways, the original youth champion. His belief in the power of the people, and his work to give every DC resident a voice is unparalleled. The disappearance of Relisha Rudd continues to be a loss that reverberates throughout our community. It’s an echo of sadness that, for those closest to her, will never cease. The tragedy in Ferguson, the death of Michael Brown and subsequent community conflict has become a stark reminder that as a nation we have much work to do in addressing race, equity and equality. It’s important to acknowledge these moments.

It’s equally important to recognize that tragedy and crisis are fertile ground for profound and positive change.

That potential is what I think about when I think about the DCAYA family.

  • Young people like Charmia, Kyrina, Boogie and Jorge: Their willingness to speak truth to power and their belief in not only themselves, but their peers, reminds me of the power inherent in each young person when they’re given room to grow and thrive. 
  • The staff working with youth at our member organizations: The unsung heroes who are helping youth find their passion and their voice as they navigate the path to adulthood. Their commitment is a reminder of just how critical a positive role model or mentor is in nurturing the life of a young person. 
  • Our fellow advocates: Those ardent individuals who never hesitate to discuss the difficult issues, who are the first to bring a solution to the table. Their work to cultivate creative solutions and refusal to accept mediocrity reminds me each day that big picture change is always possible. 

DCAYA is the tent that brings this diverse array of voices together. We work each and every day to support those future leaders in finding their voice, to highlight the impact our member organizations have on the landscape of our city, and to provide policy makers with proven solutions. Through this collective and coordinated approach, our impact is very real. We are addressing youth and child homelessness with vigor; we are creating quality academic and enrichment opportunities for all young people; and we’ve listened to our youth and are now actively mobilizing agencies, providers and funders to address the barriers young people face when trying to reconnect to school and work.

This isn’t to say our work is done. Know that in the year to come DCAYA will continue to nurture the seeds of change our community has planted. We embrace the challenges 2015 will undoubtedly bring because as a community, as a family of passionate youth advocates, we can face them together head on.

As 2014 comes to a close, look out for an upcoming blog post on DCAYA's 2015 advocacy agenda. Together we can advocate for a truly Youth-Friendly DC.

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