The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act was introduced for reauthorization in both the House and the Senate with the help of NN4Y and our friends. In the House, Chris “Kazi” Rolle—a formerly homeless youth whose life was made into a documentary titled “The Hip Hop Project”– sat with us before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities. In the Senate, actor Djimon Hounsou- sharing his own story of homelessness publicly for the first time- along with Senator Patrick Leahy, other member representatives, and myself, introduced the reauthorization before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
NN4Y has revamped our look, the website and was awarded a grant to take further steps in making our site interactive and more appealing to the populations we serve. The static site is up now at nn4youth.org. The interactive portion of the site will include blogging, games, video uploads, up to date Learn & Serve activities, places to share best practices and much more.
This last year marked some great achievements among the community-based projects funded in part by Learn and Serve America. Twelve community-based organizations are partners with the Network in this service learning project across the western United States from as far away as Hawaii to California, Utah, Oregon, Montana, Texas, and South Dakota. Using the tenets of positive youth development these sites designed their service learning projects by using youth/adult partnerships to develop projects ranging from topics such as teen bullying, alcohol and drug prevention, HIV and STD’s, obesity and healthy diet, and even touching upon mental health and the range of health issues facing foster youth. Activities included conferences planned and run by teens, art and billboards raising community awareness, and theatrical productions followed by public discussions.
We have forged strong partnerships with Virgin Mobile and YouthNoise.org, along with other national organizations. Our Virgin Mobile partnership has afforded us great visibility for education on youth homelessness to an entirely new population, as well as an opportunity to offer our member organizations clothes for youth through the TXT2CLOTHE and BLANK2CLOTHE donation drives. Virgin Mobile is nearing 100,000 total donations to date! One of my favorite letters to date– sent to Virgin Mobile from a youth in one of our programs– stated “Great people like you keep hope alive for those who are less fortunate.” We look forward to expanding this and other partnerships to further benefit our members.
Symposium 2008 – A Blueprint for the Future took place January 27 – 30 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. The agenda was chock full of stimulating workshops and speakers, exciting exhibits, opportunities for networking and sharing with colleagues and peers, as well as new and exciting information on a variety of important topics. With over 300 participants, Symposium 2008 was one of the most successful NN4Y conferences in many years.
The American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, ABA Commission on Youth at Risk, and the National Network for Youth sponsored a National Conference on Homeless Youth and the Law. The conference gathered experts from across the nation in youth and family law, state public policymaking, and homeless youth service delivery to explore the law and its impacts on runaway and homeless youth. There has never before been a national conference devoted to this topic. The expected primary outcome of the conference will be the development of a model state law on runaway and homeless youth concerns, with more conferences to come. Mark your calendar for Symposium 2009 as it will feature continuing dialogue around laws affecting unaccompanied youth.