VOYA (Voices of Youth Advisors) is the youth advisory council to Rensselaer County. As a part of VOYA you become a part of the YOUTH POWER! network, the New York State network of young people who have been labeled and who are seeking change. VOYA is driven with bringing the perspective of young people who receive cross-system services in Rensselaer County. This council provides a much needed mechanism for youth to have input into the services that are provided and ensures that services and supports in the community are meeting the needs of young people. Through VOYA, young people are able to not only improve their community but also build their personal advocacy and leadership abilities.
Our Mission is to:
- Facilitate positive change in Rensselaer County.
- Be informed on what challenges youth are facing so we can accurately represent them.
- Stay youth run, youth driven, and youth guided.
- Be a voice for youth that don’t have one.
- Help youth get involved in community activities.
- Be a role model for youth in any system.
- Be an example that youth can survive.
- Work cooperatively with adult partners in the county.
- Always make youth aware of their voice.
- Engage youth and give them a platform to speak up and speak out.
- Provide peer support to all youth who ask for it.
A message from us: Why YOUth should get involved!
Services are designed to help the young people they serve. That means we have a role in identifying what works and what does not work. It is important that we RAISE OUR VOICE so that we can have the best experience in life as possible. If we do not speak up, decisions will be made for us that affect us. We have to get involved in the process. We can make a difference!
Have you ever felt like no one listened to what you had to say? At VOYA, everyone’s voice matters. We want you to BE YOURSELF and BE YOURSELF BOLDLY! Your contribution to our movement is important.
Do you have a passion for advocacy? At VOYA you have the chance to advocate for yourself and other young people.
Do you want to connect with other peers that have had similar experiences and are committed to making services better for everyone? At VOYA you will connect with peers that share a similar passion for change and are committed to providing and promoting peer support in all they do. You will have a place where you can feel safe.
Are you looking for a place to grow? At VOYA you will learn skills that will help you as you continue to grow as an advocate and as a young professional. You will have the chance to attend different events and/or conferences where you will learn all types of new and interesting things AND earn incentives for participating.
Knowledge Nights: Knowledge Nights are an outreach strategy for young people and families where participants get to meet the VOYA team, learn more about a specific organization, service or topic, and find out how to get involved in systems advocacy through VOYA!
We held four Knowledge Nights in 2015:
- A presentation on services with Disability Rights NY
- SSA Benefits Advisement presented by staff from the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley
- Self-Advocacy, Disability Disclosure and Strategic Sharing training presented by staff at YOUTH POWER!
- Employment Safety Training presented by the Northeast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health
VOYA listening Tour: VOYA held a listening tour in 2016 in order to gather youth voice regarding services for the county. The tour consisted of holding focus groups and asking questions of students and young people in the community that relates to the quality of services they have received from the county as well as knowledge of resources available. VOYA then compiled the results and offered recommendations to the county based on input received at groups.
Who can be a part of VOYA? How can I get involved?
Any young person that wants a chance to make a difference between the ages of 14 and 28 can join VOYA so long as they live in Rensselaer County and have experience in foster care or have received mental health, juvenile justice, substance abuse, and disability and/or special education services.
If you would like to join VOYA, download our application below, complete it, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or bring it to one of our meetings. Meetings are held bi-weekly on Mondays from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Rensselaer County Building, 1600 7th Ave, Troy, NY 12180. To find out when our next meeting is, please view the YOUTH POWER! calendar.