Thursday, May 26, 2016

Youth Stories

Sam Piha
By Sam Piha

It's so simple! Whether in a one-to-one or crowded conference hall, listening to youth and their stories are a source of inspiration. We don't need a research report or framework, we just need to listen. 

The Long Beach Youth Institute has produced a number of videos of youth simply telling their stories. Bob Cabeza, Founder of the Youth Institute and Vice President of Community Development for the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, answered our questions regarding these youth stories. 

Below, we've embedded one of these video stories. You can view the others by clicking on each of their names: 

Q: Why did you decide to record these stories? 
A: In my years of experience in youth development, I find that young people need their stories told from their own perspective in order to help others understand their struggles, passions, strengths and issues. This is about growing up from an adolescent to a young adult. These are stories about issues of poverty and disengagement as much as strength and overcoming institutional oppression. 

If a young person can tell their story as a way of helping practitioners learn how to positively engage youth and provide supports for them, then these stories have tremendous meaning and value for the field of youth development. These stories help practitioners understand the human side of their work as well as to greater their knowledge of what it takes to help young people succeed over time.

Q: What benefits came to the youth as their stories were validated by this project? 
Bob Cabeza and YI Youth
A: The thing I heard over and over again is that their stories give them power - power to express themselves about their lives, power to make change in their communities, and power to help other youth by telling their life experiences. By telling their own stories, they also gain a better sense of what supports gave them strength during critical and traumatic times in their lives and what they believe should be given to other youth struggling through the same issues. Lastly, their stories help them gain leadership in knowing that they come from the same space as many of our youth and they are proof that one can make it through difficulties.

Q: What benefits do you think come from those who listen to these stories? 
A: Listeners of these stories will gain unique insight into the lives of youth in poverty and youth of color, their humanity, their struggles and their wisdom, and advice. These youth want to help others, especially urban youth. 

Hopefully, practitioners can use these stories as training tools for their staff who work directly with youth. If we are to effectively help youth face the tremendous barriers in their lives that cause trauma and a lack of hope, we must be able to empathize with them. These stories are testaments to their social and emotional learning and resiliency. 

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