We issued an Equity statement in June 2020, affirming our organization’s commitment to racial equity. Youth Solutions, Inc. was far from alone in putting forward a public condemnation of racism and discrimination with a commitment to action in support of an equal and great future for all. At Youth Solutions, supporting equity is at the core of what we do as 64% of the young people under our care identify as a racial minority.
In recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we are reflecting on the importance of action that Dr. King encouraged: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” While always a work in progress, here are some of the ways we have moved forward to further embed our commitment to equity for Michigan’s young people into all we do:
- Worked with the philanthropic community to envision an equitable opportunity for the workforce program geared towards progressive engagement with private sector culminating in mentorship, apprenticeships, and employment.
- Held four “Coffee with a Purpose” sessions with 11 youth and alumni panelists speaking to over 300 adults on topics ranging from racial equity to the impact of COVID-19. Videos of the powerful three-part series on racial equity can be found here.
- Hired two dynamic alumni interns – Tekeidra Masters and Nolan Henson – to lead a range of efforts within our organization. Tekeidra and Nolan have become invaluable voices on our team and are engaged in every critical decision made that impacts our young people.
- Launched the “Youth Advisory Council,” comprised of active and alumni youth interested in elevating their voices to guide the future of our programming.
- Applied a youth lens to all initiatives, identifying the young person as the customer of all services and ensuring their voices, opinions, and interests remain in the foreground of our decision making.
- Revised our organizational vision and mission with a youth-focused purpose statement, “inspiring youth to achieve a future beyond imagine.”
- Posted a new Alumni Engagement Manager role to build a robust alumni network of vocal youth advocates and engaged ambassadors, dedicated to amplifying the youth voice within education and the workforce.
- Launched a community-level project focused on Benton Harbor with a big idea to improve young lives by creating education, employment, and career opportunities for all Benton Harbor area youth.
Also, we are proud to say that over 30% of our Board of Directors are individuals who identify as a racial minority. We are energized by the substantive changes our organization and staff leadership have made in the six months since releasing our equity statement. We have a deep responsibility to do our best in creating a more equitable world and we take this responsibility seriously.
We will never be finished moving forward.
The Youth Solutions Team