For our fourth and last challenge of the 2022-2023 program year, we partnered with Teen HYPE, a nonprofit that works alongside Detroit area youth (12-24) to celebrate them and build collective power, agency, leadership, and critical skills—making it possible for them to enact positive change in their lives and communities. Five teams of Fellows worked alongside the Teen HYPE staff, Detroit 4 Youth (D4Y) consultants and stakeholders including youth to create deliverables focused on the Detroit Youth Action Plan (DYAP) for this project – learn more from the perspective of each team!

***This blog includes short letters by Fellows on the YAC Convening Outreach Team to their younger selves***

Our cohort had the opportunity to meet with a group of youth in Detroit who shared their stories and experiences. We saw that by giving youth a safe space to express themselves they were willing to speak out even when it is difficult or unpopular to do so. Inspired by our conversations with Detroit youth, we were even more motivated to help the youth in Detroit feel connected and empowered with and by each other. 

Our team was asked to design outreach recommendations for how to raise awareness of and invite youth leaders to particiate in a youth convening around the Detroit Youth Action Plan. One of our insights from speaking with youth was having youth help with outreach for the event. This came from a place of youth feeling respected and safe when talking to other youth. Sometimes in conversations, adults may unknowingly be condescending to younger folks. It was insights like these that informed our outreach plan.

In addition, these conversations with youth made us think back to when we were younger. We thought back to what would have stood out to us, made us feel welcomed, and what we liked about being young. With that in mind, we have written short messages to our younger selves about what our future holds. We hope to share the inspiration in these messages with all of you!

Hey Katie, You are going to learn so much in these upcoming years. There is so much more to life than what you think. Do not be afraid to be wrong, to be awkward, to be vulnerable, or to put yourself first. Remember to slow down and enjoy things. Life is not a race and you do not have to compare yourself to others. Things are looking up and there is so much left to enjoy! 

Dear Jenny, Do not always rush to do things so quickly! It’s okay to not have a solid plan for the future. I can tell you this: you’re going to do so many things you have dreamt of doing in addition to being exposed to a wide variety of experiences. Trust yourself to make good decisions so as to go with the flow of events. Stay curious and take on opportunities as they come! You made it!

Hey Eb, You are on the right path. I know it’s scary and confusing but it’s okay not knowing everything.You would be proud to see yourself now. You will have the opportunity to learn, grow and be a part of spaces that you wouldn’t have dreamed of. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable and weird. Don’t feel like you have to change yourself for people to like you. You’re a gem, take life one step at a time and everything will happen the way it was supposed to. 

Dear Haley, The best is yet to come. Everything happens for a reason and you will be so excited for where your life takes you. Continue to be courageous, curious, and always lead with empathy. As you continue to grow, so will the opportunities you are faced with. Most importantly, never forget that you have a strong support system behind you, so never stop pushing yourself to take risks and try new things. You got this. 

Dear Jaylyn, You are more capable than you’ll ever know. Give yourself some grace. Always do your best and know that’s good enough. Whenever you feel defeated know that your purpose is greater than you could ever imagine. You’re going to do phenomenal things and make contributions to the world that will leave the lasting impact that you so often dream of. Explore new opportunities and keep an open mind to new possibilities. Don’t put yourself in a box because those around you aren’t exposing themselves to the world. Get out and go live. Everything happens for a reason so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I believe in you!

Blog by Fellow Team: Jenny Pangero, Eboni Thomas, Katie Ferriby, Jaylyn King, Haley Beverlin