“Listen and respect”
“How to take anxiety off your mind”
These are some of the responses participants jotted down when asked what they learned from the 5th Annual Latin@ Youth Conference: Empowering Communities y Tomando Acción.
More than 35 youth attended this year’s conference, held February 25, 2017 in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The annual youth-led conference provides participants with a fun-filled, one-day summit of discussions and activities that enhance their awareness about topics that affect many of today’s youth, while providing attendees with access to resources and introducing them to various ways to practice self care.
Each year, the Youth Amig@s group at Casa de Esperanza organize and carry out this conference. These young men and women have refined their leadership skills by completing our youth leadership training, where they lead workshops and discussions with their peers about healthy relationships.
Based on feedback from last year’s conference and input from the Youth Amig@s on topics most relevant to their lives, our youth initiatives team collaborated with various organizations to present conference attendees with a wide variety of workshops and breakout sessions. Topics presented ranged from human trafficking to art as self care and yoga.
During the conference, participants also had the opportunity to hear from members of Inver Hills Community College on college access,
and they participated in a resource fair where several youth-focused community organizations shared information on their youth programs and offerings.
Our Youth Amig@s, who worked so hard to organize the event, observed that the conference had an overall energetic feel. They saw that attendees really cared about the topics presented and started conversations about what taking action looks like, and that action doesn’t look the same for everyone.
“Taking action can range from reflecting on your values and beliefs when it comes to drug abuse to mobilizing students in your school because no one is doing anything about students smoking in the bathrooms,” one participant shared with the youth coordinator.
Participants not only felt like they could take action on topics relevant to their lives, but they also felt empowered with the ability to take care of themselves during stressful times. The yoga workshop gave participants tools to use to “be calm and breathe” and emphasized “when you feel stressed, go to your breath.” One participant learned “about how to get worries a
way from your mind. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been going through a difficult time at school, this helps me not worry.”
By putting information and tools in the hands of these youth to take and share with their friends, families and communities, we are putting the work of ending violence in more and more hands, which is a key part of Casa de Esperanza’s philosophy. The conference is intentionally held in different parts of the Twin Cities metro area each year so we can expand our reach until all members of our communities are armed with the knowledge, resources and confidence to live a safe and healthy life.