As a collaborative group of youth and young adults, the Youth Catalyst Team is excited to partner with the National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth & Families (NCHYF) and the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) to share our insights on RHY services in a regular posting. We are a group of leaders, ages 16 to 24, who use our knowledge, skills, and personal understanding of systems and services to advance the youth services field.
Learn how Bailee overcame specific and universal challenges facing Native youth to find stability in her own life. As a young mother, she went from being homeless to earning an associate’s degree and more.
Every year, tens of thousands of young people experience homelessness. Alone on the street, youth can become victims of violence, develop serious mental health and addiction problems, and be forced to trade sex for food and shelter.
A member of two prominent youth advocacy boards explains how leadership opportunities can help young people overcome experiences with bullying.
A former runaway and her father discuss her struggles with drug use and childhood abuse and the relationships that helped them both recover.
Two team members from Jacksonville’s Project S.O.S. program describe how their original play, "Live Like it Counts," has helped convey the benefits of healthy youth lifestyles and sexual abstinence to a larger audience.
Six high school girls talk about the benefits of mentoring and community service through Baltimore’s Young Women in Action Initiative.
Youth Voice: Alan
When Alan was 15 years old, he participated in a program designed to give teenagers a taste of the law enforcement profession. He pursued his interest and eventually became a police officer in Long Beach, California. He enjoys being available to help young people and guide them so they can avoid involvement with drugs, alcohol, and abuse relationships.
Youth Voice: Alexis
Alexis, 25, is an advocate with a passion for helping those with mental illness and banishing the stigma associated with it. Alexis shares her personal experiences with losing a loved one to suicide, her advice on recovery from mental illness, and her own suicide attempt.
Youth Voice: Amy
Amy is a 22-year-old student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a foster care alumna. In the system since the age of 13, Amy’s experiences have inspired her to advocate for changes to the foster care system and to help other youth like her succeed. Amy has served as a volunteer for the Nebraska Foster Youth Council, now called Project Everlast, and is now employed by the organization, working to help other youth become advocates. Through this position, Amy is also working on the National Youth in Transition Database, a federal initiative to survey youth transitioning out of foster care in order to identify gaps and needs in the system.
Youth Voice: Angel
Angel is 22 and grew up in the foster care system. She was in and out of foster care since her mother passed away (Angel was 13). Shortly after, she moved in with a family who adopted her.
Youth Voice: Ashley
Ashley is 24 years old. She helps people engage in participatory budgeting (PB). In PB, regular people decide how to spend public money. Ashley helps young people, teachers, principals, city staff, and elected officials, such as the mayor. She learned about PB three years ago while she was a student at Arizona State University. Now Ashley takes her learning around the world.
Youth Voice: Chelsea
Chelsea moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, from Zimbabwe in 2017. She was an eighth grader at the time and found it challenging to find her place in a new city and country. She found a sense of belonging as a member of the Minneapolis Youth Congress — a governing body of young people, ages 13 to 19, who advise local elected officials and agencies on policies and programs that affect them.
Youth Voice: Hayley
Hayley, 18, is a founding member of Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment (MY LIFE), a program for youth with experience in the mental health, foster care, and/or juvenile justice systems, and youth who have struggled with substance abuse. She has worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Arizona to create a support group for youth affected by mental illness and has served on the board of Youth M.O.V.E. National, a youth-led organization that promotes youth voice and choice.
Youth Voice: Kayla
Kayla is the director and lead organizer of YOUTH VOICE, a project of the Harriet Tubman Center in Detroit, Michigan. YOUTH VOICE is an organization that assists young people to build their collective power by developing campaigns for community change with the support of an adult organizer. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Social Work, Kayla shares her experience as a youth organizer since the age of 15, addresses why youth empowerment matters in all social service fields, and reflects on YOUTH VOICE efforts to civically engage young people in Detroit.
Youth Voice: Nicole
Nicole, 17, is a junior in high school and has been involved with the foster care system since childhood. She is an active member of her local chapter of Achieving Maximum Potential, an Iowa-based youth group that helps foster youth learn advocacy, leadership, and life skills.
Youth Voice: Sixto
Sixto is currently attending Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Human Civil Rights. Sixto’s lifelong experience in foster care inspired him to become an advocate for other foster youth as a Jim Casey Young Fellow and has led him to the nation’s capital advocating for change in legislation and writing articles that have been featured on NPR, the Huffington Post, and CNN. His passion for improving the foster care system for future generations drives him to seek new opportunities for creating change.
Youth Voice: Tenaj
Tenaj, 24, is a domestic violence survivor. She is also the founder of Light to Life, a domestic violence awareness organization that she established in 2012, during her sophomore year at Wesley College. Light to Life offers workshops to raise awareness about domestic violence and addresses various topics, such as gender, self-care, communication skills, entrepreneurship skills, teen pregnancy, and healthy relationships.
Youth Voice: Yasmine
Yasmine is 24 years old. She founded and currently leads ScholarCHIPS to provide support to youth who have an incarcerated parent and reduce the shame and stigma. As the child of an incarcerated parent, she believes in empowering youth to reach their potential through mentorship and guidance.