“I am the voice. I will lead, not follow. I will create, not destroy. I am a leader. I am a force for good. I am a force for peace.” – Carlos P., third from left
This past week, Boys & Girls Clubs of America hosted leaders from 10 national youth-serving nonprofit organizations to talk about leveraging our collective strengths to promote the physical and emotional safety of youth. Following the tragedies in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, we pledged to convene these leaders and work together more urgently to address the safety crisis in our country.
In partnership with youth leaders from participating organizations, we discussed how we can continually enhance our own safety policies and practices. We also focused keenly on how we can foster and elevate youth voice and action at all levels. Violence is a major public health issue in this country. In our commitment to address this crisis, we know that every voice deserves a seat at the table.
Youth leaders, including National Youth of the Year Carlos P., joined us to brainstorm, advise and share perspectives. Ensuring young people have the skills and platforms they need to be effective, respected advocates is essential to driving the change we need. When young people have the voice and agency to address the issues that impact them, we can better craft solutions that work to meet their needs and the needs of their communities.
With millions of youth served during out-of-school time, those needs are as diverse as kids themselves. At Boys & Girls Clubs of America, we know safety is foundational to all we do. But as advocates for those who need us most, we know we can’t reach every young person alone. By stepping up our efforts to ensure children’s physical and emotional safety in Clubs and similar after-school programs, we can share and implement elevated best practices in site security, trauma informed practice, and youth advocacy.
While we might not know everything yet about the road ahead, I know I’m in good company as we fight to make sure every young person has access to a caring adult and a safe place that meets their physical and emotional safety needs.