ALEXANDRIA, VA–On Sunday, May 22, ACT for Alexandria’s Youth Philanthropy Council presented the findings of their Discovery Projects to an exclusive audience. Elected City officials, school board members, friends, and family gathered in the ACT offices to witness the unveiling of these semester-long research projects.
The Youth Philanthropy Council is a program designed by youth for youth with the purpose of providing Alexandriayouth the decision-making power and funding to address key youth issues within the community. As part of the YouthCouncil pilot program curriculum, these discovery projects focused on safety resources for LGBTQ+ youth and college application support for first-generation college students in Alexandria schools and included recommendations forsolutions to key stakeholders.
For this project, the Youth Philanthropy Council divided into two groups and selected their topics. These topics were based on peer discussions and relevant issues facing Alexandria youth today. After selecting their pertinent topics, the two groups designed and then implemented studies to gather data over the semester.
All those months of research culminated in their May 22 presentation to a standing-room only audience, which included Mayor Justin Wilson, who wrote on Facebook following the event, “These impressive kids are going to change the world with their ideas!”
The first group’s presentation was entitled “What Safety Supports Are Available to Alexandrian LGBTQ+ Youth Outside of School?” Its findings included (but were not limited to):
- No students surveyed believe that there is not stigma and safety concerns that prevent their peers fromopenly identifying as LGBTQ+
- 50% or greater of LGBTQ+ students surveyed requested resources about topics specific to attempted conversion, suicidal ideation, abuse, homelessness
- No students surveyed had safety concerns at home that were not related to their LGBTQ+ identity
- While the largest threats to LGBTQ+ students were verbal, they were the most familiar with resourcesabout suicidal ideation and felt most in need of resources about attempted conversion
The group’s recommendations to address these issues included:
- A well-supported website that would “act as a centralized hub for various LGBTQ+ safety resources of use to students in Alexandria would best fulfill their breadth of needs through their preferred medium”
- the City focus on a youth-specific LGBTQ+ page and “promote it extensively.”
- suggestions thatfocusedonsupportforLGBTQ+youthinbothcrisisandlong-lastingprecarioushome
The second group’s presentation was entitled, “First Generation College Students in Alexandria.” Its findings included
- that many first-generation students lacked knowledge on important educational aspects like applying forscholarships and financial
- That many were also aware of specific resources that were available to them, but had not taken advantage of
Their recommendations to address these gaps included:
- Creating spaces and opportunities for first-generation or immigrant students to learn about the collegeapplication process or to create a club specifically targeted at resources for this population of students
- Utilizing Lunch-and-Learn sessions as a way for students to connect with other first-generation studentsand to share resources guided by professional development oversight
The ACT Youth Philanthropy Council hopes their presentations will stand to play a part in future decisions the City makes, especially those focused on education, equity, and youth-based initiatives. Young leaders interested in applying for the 2022 Youth Philanthropy Council are encouraged to do so starting in August 2022.
With input from the City’s Youth Leadership Conference, Summer Youth Work Experience 2021, and key focus groups, the YouthCouncil was formed with the following goals:
- Improving the lives of Alexandria residents
- Empowering students as conveners for partnerships with schools
- Connecting with youth to promote early engagement with philanthropy and decision-making
- Creating a leadership development program that fosters personal growth and professional opportunities
To learn more about the Youth Philanthropy Council and to hear about it in their own words, watch this video available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgkBNauYHoE