This past June marked the first year anniversary of the Voices National Youth Advisory Board, and we’re still looking for a name that’s more compelling than NYAB. Reflection on both these things prompted some thoughts about this experience so far, and the continuous learning that working with young adults provides me.
1. Change and growth are constants. Because NYAB members span the country, we meet online through Go To Meeting and on conference call. Much of our communications also take place on a Facebook page. Sometimes, we email. On all these media, NYAB members have shown a growing comfort with their roles and capacities as the year went by. Phonecalls best display that: people are increasingly more vocal in our conversations, they support and cheer for one another, they stand by their opinions proudly. I get to witness that growth, and it’s a priviledge.
2. Even through this growth, a healthy youth-adult partnership involves creating a supportive space. Whatever you might call this – scaffolding, mentoring or simply collaboration – I’m aware of my responsibility to foster the growing capacity of these board members. These capacities may be very straightforward: submitting invoices regularly, learning to track one’s schedule and commitments. Support is also about stepping forward to clarify or advocate when it serves group understanding, or supports individual members. And also importantly, this kind of coordination is about learning to grow quiet and enjoy when youth themselves do all the chairing, organizing and decision-making.
3. Life is complex for young people. Young engagement – especially in multi-year projects – does well to acknowledge all the life-shaping decisions young adults are grappling with. What to study, where to do so, if to study and how to manage it, where to live – these are questions that involve much soul searching and energy, on top of youth’s every day demands. As adults settled in our working lives, we sometimes forget how much comfort we draw from our own routines and certainties.
I look forward to another year of this amazing collaboration of NYAB and Voices researchers.
About the Author:
Eugenia Canas is co-coordinator of the Voices NYAB alongside Alia El-Tayeb. Eugenia is Community of Practice coordinator for mindyourmind, and a student of Western University's Health Information Science program.