Centering Youth Voice and Engagement at YMCA Louisville
Youth voice has the power to shift community dialogue. Moreover, when youth are empowered to share their voice and shape the messaging around them, they develop strong protective assets, and in building their own resilience, they also are able to shape the world around them and produce different outcomes. Opportunities to process lessons learned through developing songs, podcasts, and art has been a key tenant of our program’s success evidenced by a lot of teens asking to come back for a second or third time.
Kelley Luckett, Senior Director of Community Integrated Health at YMCA Louisville
YMCA of Greater Louisville (YMCA Louisville) has developed creative ways to expand youth engagement and elevate youth voices in its TPP20 Tier 1 project, Love Notes Initiative.Love Notes is a strengths-based curriculum that focuses on healthy relationship skills-building during 13 sessions. The program offers a week-long camp over school breaks that builds on the curriculum.
The Teen Vibe Camp (named in response to youth feedback) provides an opportunity for youth to participate in Love Notes in the morning and then incorporate the curriculum’s concepts into podcasts, videos, art, music and social media in the afternoon. Staff from the Best Buy Teen Tech Center, a YMCA Louisville partner, provide the instruction on programming, film-making, music production, and design. In one example of this creative processing, youth explored the topic of bullying, drawing from their own experiences, during a podcast. The Teen Vibe Camp model is an outstanding example of how one TPP program operates in a community setting while elevating youth voices.
YMCA Louisville also supports youth engagement and voices through its peer educator model. Through this model, youth ages 14–19 in their program in West and Southwest Louisville, are trained to be Love Notes group mentors and, eventually, program facilitators. Watch this video to hear how one Youth Facilitator got involved with the program and what it means to her and her community.