Every year at VOICES, young people age 14 to 21 come eager to tell stories about their lives—what has happened to them, what they dream, theorize or wish, and their musings and investigation of the world around us. In our culture, youth voice is fragmented, ignored and co-opted by media outlets, marketers and stereotypes. Youth are among the most marginalized populations, yet they have tremendous insight and the potential to change our world. When they feel heard and understand that what they have to say matters, they invest in their education and future.
SVP Partners helped Voices build its board of directors, develop fundraising expertise, and strengthen its capacity to serve youth. SVP also helped lead a nationwide search for a new executive director.
Year after year, the Voices program provides youth the responsibility of participating in its programs and, as a result, the opportunity to be a published author. These experiences change negative behaviors into behaviors that prepare them for college, the work world, and being engaged citizens.
ONE CLIENT STORY
Stacey Pinnell, 19, is a great example of a young person who fits that description. Stacey already was a good writer—she had a fluid, raw creativity and was a natural at incorporating her life experiences into stories.
Stacey was coping with chaos in her life and was often absent, but she still kept coming back. She worked with Writing Director Katie Gindlesparger on a story that was published as an opinion column in the Tucson Weekly about recovering from a heroin addiction, and how important LifePoint, the needle exchange program, had been in helping her get clean. Katie accompanied Stacey to interview Miguel Soto, who coordinated the LifePoint program when she was a client. Stacey got to say thank you to Miguel for the kindness he showed her and the ways he had helped save her life.
Stacey was selected to read from her Tucson Weekly piece at our annual spring event. She bravely retold her story to an audience of hundreds.
We will continue our relationship with Stacey through the development of our alum program, which allows program participants from years past to reconnect with each other and continue their documentary arts training, or build new relationships, or study for school. Stacey is an example of why longitudinal engagement is important because she relies on her freelance stipends from VOICES to make ends meet, and she has important stories to tell.