AdvocacyCultureEducation

Youth Build Community Family

It becomes increasingly more difficult to engage and build relationships with our youth nowadays, which is why we are so grateful to all of those who make our Youth Development Program (YDP) possible and provide a safe space for teens to grow.

Photograph display of the Life Skills workshops Youth participated in all year long.

Photograph display of the Life Skills workshops Youth participated in all year long.

“We completely created a family feel. They are pushed to get out of their comfort zones, open up about what they struggle with at home, school, and society – their self-identities and their places in the community,” explained YDP Coordinator, Erika Rodriguez.

As Jennifer Osayande put it, “We all consider each other family here.”

This is especially apparent during “Paredes en Fuego,” our annual youth art showcase that brings community members young and old together to celebrate the hard work, lessons, and creativity of our Peer Leaders each spring. Looking around the room there are nothing but smiles, pats on the back, and exchanges of “Congratulations!”

“This is our second to last event– a chance for youth to express everything they’ve been learning through the visual arts: social justice, issues they see in their day-to-day lives. We’ve looked at self-expression, learning about themselves and their identity, becoming a young adult,” said Rodriguez.

It is one of our proudest moments of the year to show-off the dedication and talent of these young artists and activists, but it is even more inspiring for

Youth artwork and a newspaper article featuring the March 2017 "Mujeres" exhibit that celebrated Women's History Month.

Youth artwork and a newspaper article featuring the March 2017 “Mujeres” exhibit that celebrated Women’s History Month.

our Peer Leaders themselves. In anticipation of the start of the event, we spoke with a few of the Peer Leaders who expressed their mixture of nerves and excitement for the evening.

“We have all worked really hard over these months!” said YDP Peer Leader Alexandra Arias, then added, “It is really cool to come together for this event.”

Senior, Oladipupo Ogundipe (Ladi), shared that he was just as excited for his fellow Peer Leaders to display and perform their works as he was to share his own, “I’m glad to see my peers’ works because we have a lot of talented people here.”

“I’m excited to see how people react… we worked hard!” exclaimed Peer Leader Lesley Pimentel.

Youth stand with masks they created for the January 2017 Sanse Festival to represent those affected by the Puerto Rican Debt crisis.

Youth stand with masks they created for the January 2017 Sanse Festival to represent those affected by the Puerto Rican debt crisis.

Through their captivating visual artworks and moving poetry, the youth brought a full house to the Villa Victoria once again. Audience members experienced an evening of immersion in “social justice through the arts,” the core of the YDP curriculum explained Rodriguez; displaying masks created to “represent the people most affected in Puerto Rico” by the debt crisis, performing ‘I am’ poems “about self-identity and expression,” and more politically & personally motivated artworks.

If you want to support these young people who are learning how to make a difference in their communities, make sure not to miss the final YDP event of the year at the Blackstone Community Center this Thursday, May 25th at 6:30 pm. With more spoken word, poetry, and performances to see, you will get a glimpse into the what the future holds for our young people. We hope to see you there!

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