Initially, young people may enroll in YouthBuild to seek a secondary education credential and relevant training to obtain a job. During this process, caring and supportive adults empower participants to advocate for themselves and others and transform their lives to become change agents in their communities. However, many young people are either directly or indirectly affected by compound traumas and mental health issues stemming from systemic, generational challenges impacting low-income people and communities (e.g., housing and food insecurity, lack of quality education and job opportunities, and racial injustices). These challenges may affect participants’ engagement and performance in the program or on a job placement and having a culture where young people feel safe to communicate what they are experiencing is key to successfully supporting them.
Although May was Mental Health Awareness month, there is a need for all staff to remain vigilant about the pervasiveness of mental health issues in opportunity youth and how to best address it without unintentionally causing additional harm. YouthBuild programs have responded to youths' mental health and wellness needs by implementing a trauma-informed approach and pivoting to ask participants exhibiting mental health issues, "what happened?" instead of "what's wrong?" This Mental Health and Wellness Toolkit is an additional resource to support staff and youth with grief and loss, substance use, self-care and mindfulness, healthy living practices, trauma and stress, and COVID-19.
National Pride Month
"LGBTQ+ individuals — especially youth who defy sex or gender norms — face bullying and harassment in educational settings and are at a disproportionate risk of self-harm and death by suicide." ("A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month, 2021," Whitehouse.gov, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/06/01/a-proclamation-on-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-and-queer-pride-month-2021, Accessed June 5th, 2021).
How can YouthBuild programs continue learning and deepening their toolboxes to design environments where all youth feel safe and a sense of belonging? YouthBuild programs have an opportunity to model what it looks and feels like for LGBTQ+ youth to have their multi-identities respected and celebrated regardless of their gender, sex, or sexual orientation. To get there, it will require intentional effort to assess all aspects of a young person's experience with the program from recruitment to exit to ensure that the culture reflects inclusive language, images, activities, and virtual and physical spaces. Here are a few resources to help support these efforts:
LGBTIQ+ Inclusive Language Guide
LGBTQ+ Language DOs and DON'Ts Handout
Genderbread Person v4.1 Activity&Genderbread Visual
The "Coming Out" Handout
GLAAD LGBTQ+ Resource List
LGBTQ+ Youth Suicide Prevention Resources
The Safe Zone Project Training Curriculum
The Safe Zone Project Resources