On Wednesday, June 7th, Fostering Change grantees and young allies came together for June Grantee Learning Day. With learning processes rooted in story and community, the event generated key insights about how we can establish conditions in which youth in and from care are thriving.
The learning began as participants broke into 7 groups to relate stories about themselves and the issues which matter to them. Topics included everything from the origins of a podcast led by youth in and from care, to the formation of one's identity as a mestiza woman.
In conveying their experiences, storytellers touched on their setbacks, how they achieved success, and their goals for the future, all of which contained important lessons about how we can make breakthroughs in our endeavors to create a more equitable society. Facilitator Amanda Fenton also encouraged participants to switch groups, which led to a ‘cross-pollination’ of ideas by exposing people to a greater range of experiences and the lessons embedded within them.
The enviable artistic skills of Tiare Jung from Drawing Change were very helpful during the reflection process, as she worked on graphic recordings that synthesized key points and helped participants visualize the insights generated throughout the day.
After group discussion, the stage was set for a talk by Dylan Cohen, Project Coordinator for AgedOut.com and contributor to the Evidence Network. Dylan told his story of growing up in Manitoba's 'disempowering' care system, and how grounding himself in education helped him overcome adversity and spearhead the 25not21 campaign.
He then outlined the organizing principles that guided his campaign to extend support for youth in care, with a focus on creative activism. Using tactics such as cry-ins and delivering Valentine's messages to elected officials, Dylan was able to attract significant attention to his cause and secure pledges of action from some of Manitoba's major political parties.
Throughout Dylan's talk, key themes raised during the earlier storytelling process, such as engagement and identity, were apparent. He emphasized how activism made him feel powerful, and noted the influence of mentors who helped him connect with his Indigenous identity. There was no shortage of applause for this young leader, who is already making his mark as a social justice advocate.
From here, the event transitioned into an 'open space' period in which participants were free to discuss whatever issues they wished to. These included, among other things, changing the sob story narrative about youth in and from care, better educating the education system, and alternative methods of fundraising.
Learning day then closed with some final reflections and a treat-filled celebration of youth in and from care. These young people and their supporters are what the day was ultimately about, and we plan to continue the process of learning and campaigning for change with more events like this.