What an incredible morning! While we've held a number of convenings over the years, this is the first one officially held under the banner of United for Youth (U4Y). We would like to thank our partners (both in-state and out-of-state), teachers, faculty, school administrators, and most importantly, the amazing young people who attended and made this community convening a rich experience.
Youth panelists shared their personal experiences as community leaders with one resounding theme, "I want to be there for others the way I wished someone had shown up for me when I was little."
When Julia, a middle school student, shared her appreciation for Umoja Health, Wellness, and Justice Collective she also shared her interest in someday becoming a detective. No sooner had we paused for a break when fellow attendee, Sheriff Miller, arrived by Julia's side with a youth badge and a promise to nurture that dream.
"People think that Restorative Practice is about removing consequences in the schools, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, what it does is directly hold individuals accountable to their community."
For several years now United Way has provided training opportunities for local educators, nonprofit partners, and youth in the principles and practices of Restorative Practice. At the convening, youth, faculty, and staff shared their own experience with the practice - the good and the hard.
In addition to sharing their appreciation for a way for students and educators to build relationships when there isn't a crisis underway, the panel also named how important it is to have this platform for when things do go wrong. "Can we have a circle?" "We need to circle up." Students are learning to ask for this as a way to mend and mediate hard moments.
The Power of Connection and A Bold Goal
After the panel discussions, the afternoon was devoted to tabletop discussions on how to better develop and incorporate youth voice and leadership within each school community.
Collaboration, open and honest dialog, and creating space for all voices to be heard are critical to reaching our community's Bold Goal: By 2035, ALL Asheville City and Buncombe County students graduate from high school ready and fully prepared to pursue their goals and dreams. And if last week's convening was any indicator, this network is well on its way.
We know this is just the tip of the iceberg and that we have a lot of work still to do. We invite you to stay engaged and connected. Below are just a few steps you can take to keep this work moving forward:
- Learn more about U4Y, including how to become an official partner
- Join and follow United Way on Social Media
- Save the Date and Join us for the U4Y Block Party
- Sign up to receive updates about all our work, including the latest from U4Y via United Way's monthly newsletter
- Participate in regular U4Y Network calls by contacting Joseph Jamison