The holiday season and start to a new year is a natural point of reflection. A time of pause when we recall the poignant moments of the past twelve months, ponder lessons learned, celebrate our successes and think about the promise of the year to come.
It has been a busy and productive year for the entire DCAYA family. Collectively we delivered more than 200 pieces of testimony at over 2 dozen hearings, devoted hundreds of hours to educating key policy makers on the barriers and opportunities facing DC children, youth and families (rough estimates suggest more than 2,000 hours total); and delivered well over 5,000 advocacy campaign letters, petition signatures, or calls to action to key decision makers on issues ranging from afterschool access to the development of a state diploma.
- We've completed a homeless youth census, over 15 new beds for homeless youth are online, and both drop in center and youth focused outreach services have expanded;
- A full, data driven, plan to address youth homelessness (due in March!), expanded services to homeless minors and the closure of DC general are on the horizon;
- We protected a critical funding stream, and successfully advocated for a restoration of cut funds to youth development programs outside of the school day;
- We are one final vote away from a State Diploma for GED recipients, and we’re making significant strides in expanding transportation support to the 800 (or so) 22-24 year old students seeking to re-connect to education.
Yet the work, and that impact doesn’t end with our advocacy efforts. We’ve had opportunities to convene and learn from one another. Whether it’s at the Youth Workforce Leadership Academy, Brown Bag Lunches, Quarterly Breakfasts with DC Government Agencies, networking or awareness raising events; we’ve watched our vibrant community grow and evolve.
Most importantly, through our collective advocacy and your exceptional services and support we’ve ensured tens of thousands of our children and youth have access to the services and youth development opportunities they need to thrive. As we close 2015 we have much to celebrate and much to be thankful for.
This isn’t to say our work is done. 2016 will bring new challenges and opportunities; and DCAYA will continue to nurture the seeds of change our community has planted:
- We will set bold and audacious goals and we will work diligently to meet them;
- We will strive, each and every day, to support future leaders in finding their voice;
- We will elevate the positive impact our member organizations have on the landscape of our city and we will continue to build your capacity to demonstrate that impact and;
- We will ensure that policy makers are equipped with a clear understanding of the potential inherent to every young person and the policy solutions needed to realize that potential.
So please know that as we start 2016, we will be reaching out to mobilize and activate each of you, the youth and families you serve, and our collective supporters, friends and allies to continue this important work.
Whether it’s demonstrating the need for additional after school options, strengthening our education and workforce development systems or ensuring our homeless services system is youth friendly; we have the potential to create lasting and meaningful systems change that will benefit children and youth for years to come. We couldn’t do it without you, and we can’t wait to kick off our 2016 advocacy efforts.
Until then, happy holidays and thank you again for being a part of DCAYA.
- Maggie Riden