Thrive by 25: Young People and Elected Leaders Talk About Working Together

Posted February 3, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young people talk to elected state leaders during an event announcing the Casey Foundation's Thrive by 25 effort.

Three lieu­tenant gov­er­nors lis­tened to young peo­ple before speak­ing at an event where the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion announced it is ded­i­cat­ing at least half of its invest­ments over the next decade to improv­ing the well-being and prospects of youth and young adults ages 1424. Expand­ing on the impor­tance of this work, and what it will require of those involved, was the focus of a vir­tu­al Youth Voice and Pow­er Sum­mit host­ed by the Foun­da­tion on Jan. 28.

The sum­mit gave five young peo­ple the oppor­tu­ni­ty to share and exchange ideas about what youth and young adults need and what pol­i­cy­mak­ers can do to ensure they Thrive by 25.

You have to under­stand [a] community’s cul­ture” to make those con­nec­tions with young peo­ple in diverse com­mu­ni­ties, said Per­la Ortiz, a mem­ber of the Young Invin­ci­bles Youth Advi­so­ry Board in Texas, dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion fea­tur­ing four young lead­ers and a young mod­er­a­tor. Every­thing from trans­lat­ing doc­u­ments to facil­i­tat­ing access to health care is essential.

Oth­er needs raised by the young lead­ers ranged from equi­table resourc­ing and vot­ing rights to trans­fer­ring the knowl­edge of com­mu­ni­ty and fam­i­ly elders to the next gen­er­a­tion. Address­ing the needs of youth and young adults is mul­ti­fac­eted, but as Sam Schim­mel, who is work­ing to com­bat sui­cide, drug abuse and cul­tur­al ero­sion in Alas­ka Native com­mu­ni­ties, summed it up, What suc­cess looks like for young peo­ple is hope — that abil­i­ty to say that I can hold a posi­tion wher­ev­er I want to be.’”

Dur­ing a sec­ond pan­el dis­cus­sion, three lieu­tenant gov­er­nors — Peg­gy Flana­gan (D‑Minnesota), Howie Morales (D‑New Mex­i­co) and Boyd K. Ruther­ford (R‑Maryland) — offered their per­spec­tives on pol­i­cy impli­ca­tions at the state level.

We need to ensure that the peo­ple who are most impact­ed are the clos­est to the deci­sion-mak­ing table and the solu­tions,” Flana­gan said, react­ing to what she heard from the first dis­cus­sion. That’s what’s so excit­ing about this con­ver­sa­tion: Each of our youth are using and pulling a dif­fer­ent lever to move their com­mu­ni­ties for­ward — and be seen and heard and val­ued and pro­tect­ed.” Her state just launched a young women’s ini­tia­tive to lift youth voic­es and encour­age mentorship.

All three lieu­tenant gov­er­nors dis­cussed the need to make con­tin­ued invest­ments in education.

The need to do the work was a theme that cut across both pan­els and left the most endur­ing impres­sion. A lot of times, when we think about change, we think about the final prod­uct, we think about the folks who are sat­is­fied with that. But we don’t know a thing about the process,” said Jamal Jones, co-founder of the Bal­ti­more Alge­bra Project, which focus­es on youth lead­er­ship and employ­ment through math. The process is real­ly where the work is.”

The data show why it is impor­tant for the Foun­da­tion to focus on old­er youth and young adults.

The health and eco­nom­ic crises that we are going through have elim­i­nat­ed a decade of progress in recon­nect­ing young peo­ple to school and to work,” said Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Lisa Hamil­ton. We have got to seize this moment to regain and pave a path for­ward for them.”

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