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Spotlight: Inside Out Youth Services

Stories, Successes, Challenges, and Innovative Solutions from CenterLink Member Centers

July 28, 2021

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Inside Out’s Youth Advisory Council was created as a part of our Positive Youth Development model several years ago. In recent years, it’s been a part of a local youth advocacy coalition, called UpRISE, which focuses on addressing the root causes of youth tobacco use through a social justice lens. As a part of this coalition, our YAC has been tackling systemic issues like lack of access for LGBTQ+ youth to affirming mental health care providers, which impacts youth gravitating toward unhealthy coping mechanisms, like tobacco use.

Which areas does your project, program, or initiative fall under?

Programmatic innovation and community connection
Community empowerment, diversity, equity, and inclusion

Why was the project/initiative/program implemented? What was the need or gap and how did it help bridge that need/gap?

While many youth agencies have YACs or YABs or similarly fun-named entities for youth leadership development, our YAC’s involvement in upstream LGBTQ+ health movements is unique. We were noticing so many in our community being impacted by tobacco, so we joined the UpRISE coalition as a way of addressing this issue. Because of that, we’ve been able to learn skills about social justice movements, direct action, and advocacy that we’re going to be able to translate into building queer power in our community!

Who does this project/initiative/program benefit?

Queer youth! The purpose is to support queer youth and hold tobacco companies accountable in an attempt to end the targeting of queer youth. We do this by recognizing that the health and wellness of LGBTQ+ youth are socially determined and that our society can be changed through youth action.

How and when was this project/initiative/program initiated?

We’re in year three of our participation in the UpRISE Coalition, which is being funded by our partners at Tobacco-Free Colorado. This funding goes to stipend-ing our YAC for their work and advocacy.

What key components made this project/initiative/program a success?

Funding and youth concentration on the project itself. Our youth are motivated and invested in the work, and they are leading our organization into new realms of community action. Connecting with other community partners and organizations as a part of this coalition has created power and momentum when we get to see change occur.

What challenges/roadblocks did you experience during the implementation and how did you overcome them?

We’ve seen pushback and resistance from community and political leaders and so we are developing strategies for influencing and shifting even the most resistant authorities. Issues of funding continue to impact the potential of this project, as the investment into youth action is being challenged by some in our communities.

How has this impacted your center’s operations and local community?

Our YAC has been able to expand the reach of Inside Out, taking our work from being solely INSIDE our space and moving it OUT into the community. Centering the voices of our youth has made Inside Out stronger and more resilient. They give feedback and ideas that keep our staff accountable to our goals and mission.

What are the next steps?

We’re going to keep fighting the fight! We’re soon going to be targeting policy changes in our city that will address youth mental health as we’ve identified that as a major root cause for youth tobacco use. Our advocacy will not stop!

How could other centers learn from this?

Focusing our efforts on building youth power to address these issues means that our efforts go further. We encourage other centers to look at creating social justice movements within their communities that address youth health and wellness. Allowing young people to shape the conversation and direct the movement is a key to success!

Jessie Pocock, MPA, Executive Director

Inside Out Youth Services

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