As Summer has officially come to an end, Youth Healers Stand Up marked the end of the season with their 2nd Annual Heal the Future conference Youth Power edition.
This event took place on August 24th with both a morning and evening session. The conference highlighted work that we and our allies have accomplished this Summer. Joining us in our conference were representatives from The Young Adults Leadership Committee (YALC), Juvenile Law Center (JLC), Youth Art and Self Empowerment Project (YASP), and Valley Youth House Pride Task Force.
In the morning session, YASP, JLC, and Youth Healers led a discussion on the progress they have made with their campaigns. Youth Healers presented the work they accomplished with the Einstein Pride Program where they are creating a new drop-in space located at Einstein Medical Center specifically meant for LGBTQ+ youth. Currently they are in the outreach phase of this project, but they are engaging with members of these communities to see what young people want to see in drop-in spaces. YASP was able to talk about how they are creating participatory defense hubs for youth. This will allow young people charged with crimes, their families and the community to go to one location and gather resources they need for support. Families will be able to access resources to bring their loved ones home sooner, and community members will learn how to support young people affected by the juvenile justice system. Juvenile Law Center showed a presentation highlighting who they are and the work they have done with their programs Juveniles for Justice and Youth Fostering change. Their focus is on training young people to be leaders in advocacy work and policy reform.
Young people and staff from People’s Emergency Center as well as Youth Healers held a workshop REACH for Understanding: People’s Emergency Center models adult and youth vulnerability in Co-Creating Youth-Programs where they discussed the REACH program at PEC. REACH stands for Relaxation, Exercise, Activities, Choice and Healing. It’s a program created by youth at PEC ages 11-17 designed specifically for them to give them a space to relax and be teenagers. This workshop allowed adult staff members to ask these teenagers who helped create the program how they can be better allies and assist them in making this program grow and thrive.
Other workshops throughout the day included Train Your Brain/Talk to Me Nice: An interactive workshop designed to battle stigma and rewrite the narrative on Philly’s Youth led by Youth Healers. They highlighted retraining our brains to think positively about ourselves and not put ourselves down. I attended this session myself and really appreciated the lessons we were being taught. So often, if someone is putting us down, we defend ourselves by saying “I am not (insert descriptor here).” By saying that you are not whatever someone called you, your brain is already trying to convince you that you actually are. If someone calls you annoying, instead of defending yourself by saying “I am not annoying,” instead you can come back with a positive affirmation such as, “I am creative,” or “I am loved.” Retraining your brain to be kind to yourself is a lot of work, but it’s really beneficial to our health and well-being.
Y’all Want Peer Support?: Voices of Youth at YES Shelter on Youth Mental Health featured people from Youth Healers and also Valley Youth House Pride Task Force talking about peer support groups and what they would look like if modeled with youth in mind. They talked about the results they had from doing outreach at YES shelter, and what those young people want to see in peer support models. YALC + Healers in Conversation -- Youth leaders discuss Youth-led strategies to support youth experiencing homelessness could be summed up as Youth Homelessness 101. This was a discussion on what youth homelessness is, what it looks like, and why it’s an invisible issue. Young people with experience of homelessness were able to talk about their own experiences and validate each others stories.
The workshop that I helped lead with other Healers and Valley Youth House Pride Task Force was LGBTQ Justice and Housing: Valley Youth House PRIDE Task Force + Healers discuss creating safe spaces for housing insecure LGBTQ young people. In the morning session, I discussed briefly what Healers and Einstein Pride Program were doing together to create another LGBTQ drop in space, this other session allowed me and others to elaborate more on what’s going on and even to ask attendees what they think is necessary in a space like this to help combat youth homelessness. Something that keeps being brought up when we do outreach to see what young people need in a drop-in space is that they want something that’s open 24hrs 7 days a week. With the short hours of current drop-in spaces, young people experiencing some form of housing insecurity don’t have anywhere safe to be a lot of the time, and they need spaces where they can unwind and relax and just be themselves. In this new model of drop-in spaces, we are aiming to open up more places that have those types of hours for folks.
Overall, the Heal The Future conference was a huge success. Personally, I’m really proud of all the work that we and our allies have accomplished, and what we were able to do for these sessions. Youth Healers would like to thank all the members from Youth Art Self-Empowerment Project, Juvenile Law Center, The Young Adult Leadership Committee, and Valley Youth House Pride Task Force for joining us and coming out that day to showcase their work as well as support us.
Check out our instagram at @youthhealersphilly if you want to see pictures from that day and also keep up to date with what we’re doing.
And as always, if you have questions or would like to join the Healers as either an ally or youth, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org