BYLINE: Anthony Pereira Pomales, Maoly Lara Pena, Nikkia Jean-Charles
This summer, rather than having a team of Teen Organizers who got intensive training on community organizing skills B-SAFE tried something new. We three experienced Teen Organizers were hired to bring a five-week civics currciulum to all the young people at every B-SAFE site. In our 20th summer, more than 500 elementary, middle, and high schoolers learned something about individual and collective power. We taught them the ways they already have power and how they can use their power together to make their neighborhoods safer, friendlier, and more fun.
At each elementary site, we led classes each week during Fun at Home Days. Games and art activities helped young people identify the power they have from their name and heritage through art. Then, students learned about other young people from history--such as Malala who works on girls education from Pakistan and Emma Gonzalez who addresses gun violence through March for Our Lives in Florida--have used their power to make real changes in the world. And then, together, each site used their learnings to create big posters of power with words and symbols from their lessons.
At each middle school site, we taught middle schoolers about power in a single day. Again, young people thought and shared together about the power they have as individuals. Then, they identified issues they cared about in their neighborhoods; they talked both about things that were great about their local area and then things they might want to change. After identifying these issues, YLC-ers made signs and chants and had a peace walk-community love walk in the neighborhood around the site.
It was not always easy to keep the attention of young people. And we had to adapt our lessons to keep the attention of the youngest participants (they really do not like to sit still!). And we learned some things that we would do differently next summer. But we think that these opportunities to learn about power and to have another way to "do it like you" set all of our B-SAFE participants up for seeing themselves as young leaders and making real and meaningful contributions to their neighborhoods in the months and years to come.
More about Anthony, Maoly, and Nikkia
Anthony, Maoly, and Nikkia are all experienced Teen Organizers who have been involved in SSYP and the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign for the past four years. Anthony and Maoly both recently graduated from Fenway High School and will be attending Bunker Hill College in the fall. Nikkia will be returning to Cathedral High School and continuing her work with B-PEACE. She and another Teen Organizer, Ekran Sharif, took a few days off from B-SAFE this July to travel to Texas where they were among the 100 top teen leaders from around the country at a National Strategy Session for March For Our Lives, planning out the next phase of the campaign to end gun violence.