by Andrew Nalani, Claudia Pineda, and Larisa Benson, Co-Directors, Partners for Youth Empowerment
There is no denying that young people today face extraordinary obstacles that have deepened social isolation and magnified collective trauma, from racial violence and climate crisis, to a global pandemic and “comparison culture” emboldened by social media.
Across the country, more than one in three high school students report feeling “persistently sad or hopeless.” And, despite the unprecedented need for collective action, the proverbial “village” that our children need to feel safe, be healthy, and become whole is, itself, overwhelmed and stressed. Since the pandemic emerged, parents have reported increased depressive symptoms and more negative interactions with their children, frontline teachers are burnt out and leaving the profession in droves, and other influential adults, such as youth workers, have reported feeling disconnected with today’s young people and helpless to help them navigate the complex issues of our time.
For more than two decades, Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE) has been a powerful antidote to these social ills. We exist to uplift young people and develop their social and emotional resiliency through the simple premise that youth thrive through positive adult connection. The key, our co-founders discovered, was to help the adults who work with youth to (re)discover their own creativity and to harness that creative force to authentically connect with young people and reinforce their sense of self and community.
The secret? Creative empowerment.
Developed and tested by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy, our Creative Empowerment Model is the basis for all of our work at PYE. The model centers creative expression and helps unlock the will to reimagine by challenging blockers to connection and cooperation while offering adults the tools to support youth.
Since 1997, we have trained tens of thousands of adults worldwide to ignite a global network of “creative facilitators.” We also reach young people directly through our Power of Hope Camp on Whidbey Island, a sister program to Commonweal’s Power of Hope Camp Bolinas, and other youth camps and trainings that run globally.
Unfortunately, like many service organizations, the pandemic continued to impact our traditional in-person programming in 2022 and we made the difficult decision to pause PYE’s Power of Hope Camp this year. Nevertheless, we supported our partner camps in Bolinas, CA (Power of Hope), Eugene, OR (Culture Jam) and Cortes, BC (Power of Hope) by sharing our most seasoned facilitators to cross-pollinate ideas across the camps, culminating in a gathering called Camp ReJubilation. Twenty-nine of our network facilitators from the Pacific Northwest gathered on the magical meadows of Whidbey Island to reconnect, re-energize, and reimagine the next generation of creative community programs.
We also focused on deepening long-standing partnerships and continued our work with IndigenEYEZ, a Canada-based nonprofit with the mission “to inspire an intergenerational legacy of well-being among First Nations people in British Columbia and beyond.” Together, we collaborated to design, adapt, and launch Spark: Creative Facilitation Training for Indigenous peoples wanting to engage, inspire, and mobilize Indigenous youth and communities. We engaged more than 75 participants in our Spring 2022 workshops and ran them again this fall.
Throughout the year, our dedicated staff and teaching artists continued to collaborate, ideate, and introduce new creative ways to transform the youth-serving community into the change agents that young people need now, more than ever. To join us in offering these opportunities, you can donate here.