YOUTH POWER! aims to AMPLIFY-NY with regional youth leadership forums and supported leadership activities for young people to speak up, build skills, and prepare to take on leadership roles. This initiative brings the opportunities to YOUth and amplifies the YP! network to give the next generation of leaders the tools and support they need for success. Parents and caregivers also have the opportunity to attend a series of workshops entitled “Foundations for Leadership” to assist them in continuing to help set the stage for young people to Lead On.
The youth leadership forums and parent/caregiver workshops are FREE to attend.
This initiative is funded from 2017-2021 through a grant with the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC).
Youth Leadership Forum and Parent/Caregiver Workshop Series
Youth ages 14-24 are encouraged to register for our FREE, unique, 4-day, 3-night event designed for YOUth to speak up, build leadership and self-advocacy skills and prepare to take on leadership roles with the support of peers along the way.
“As an 18-year-old with severe anxiety and being unable to drive, meeting similar people to me close to my age has been especially difficult. Through the Youth Leadership Forum, I learned about disabilities and different acts, but also made new friends. It also made me more confident when talking to people, especially people with authority, about what I need to be successful. After I signed up, I was extremely nervous, thinking people were going to be judgmental. Luckily, nobody was, which made it safe for everyone. As anxious as I was, I wouldn’t change my experience. I would highly encourage people to attend it because it is a wonderful event.” – R.P. YLF Alumni
- Participate in large and smaller breakout group sessions facilitated by peers
- Learn from guest speakers and panel presentations
- Enjoy structured, educational yet fun activities (we promise!)
- Connect with resources that meet the goals/advocacy activities that interest you.
- Attend optional evening activities (game night, karaoke, etc
Foundations for Leadership: A Parent/Caregiver Workshop Series
Young people and their parents/caregivers can greatly benefit from connecting with their peers in order to support their personal growth. Additionally, young people want to be heard by their caregivers and receive that support as they grow into young leaders and become more self-sufficient. Through this FREE workshop series that brings together both the family and youth perspective, we give caregivers the tools they need to support the young people in their care as a vital part of their transition team through teaching, modeling, and support. Lunch will be provided.
Parents/caregivers attend the workshop on the first and last days of the Youth Leadership Forum, providing them the opportunity to support their youth attending a new event and witness them graduate the forum with pride (if they are participating). The parent/caregiver workshop series includes both individual sessions and joint sessions with youth participants.YOUTH POWER! has partnered with Families Together in New York State, and INCLUDEnyc to develop this opportunity. Lunch will be provided.
About the Youth Leadership Forums (YLFs)
By utilizing the California model of Youth Leadership Forums as a strong base and adding some YP! flavor, young people across the state will have the opportunity to learn more about a variety of leadership topics. As with all YP! events, the forum will be a safe, youth-friendly environment with plenty of fun activities to compliment the wealth of knowledge being learned. This can include talent shows, dance parties, free time to mingle or relax, and more! Participants will also have the opportunity to connect with local resources at the resource fair and learn more about leadership opportunities or have a chance to advocate at the Leadership Luncheon.
Throughout the forum, young people will learn about:
- Disability History & Culture
- Strategic Sharing & Disclosure
- Wellness tools
- Leadership and Communication Skills
- Independent Living
- Financial Literacy
- Systems Advocacy
- Creating a Personal Leadership Plan
- And more!
These 4-day, 3-night forums are free to attend for young people ages 14-24.
About the Parent & Caregiver Workshop Series
Young people with disabilities and their parents/caregivers can both greatly benefit from connecting with their peers and having opportunities to support their personal growth. Additionally, we often hear from young people that they want to be heard by their caregivers and have them involved as a support as they grow into young leaders and become more self-sufficient. Through this workshop series, we give caregivers the tools they need to support the young people in their care as a vital part of their transition team.
YP! is partnering with Families Together in NYS, INCLUDEnyc, and Parent Network of Western NY to develop a series of workshops for parents and caregivers that bring together the family and youth perspectives. Focusing on teaching, modeling, and support, these sessions take place alongside the YLFs and throughout the community.
OPPORTUNITIES TO GET INVOLVED
Planning Group: Leading the way in planning these forums is a peer-run statewide planning group. Youth and young adults with developmental and other disabilities ages 14-24 are invited to join this group to help design and carry out youth leadership forums across the state, starting with the pilot forum in the Capital District. This group meets 1-2 times per month. Young people who are interested in joining this group must
fill out the Planning Group interest form.
Click here for the planning group flyer.
Sustainability Task Force: In order to help this initiative continue to thrive, the sustainability task force works to build partnerships, share resources, and raise funds. This group is made of all stakeholders including youth, parents/caregivers, members from state agencies, and individuals who are familiar with fundraising, local private foundations, and recruiting sponsorships. This group meets once per month. Individuals interested in joining this group must fill out the Sustainabilty Task Force interest form.
Brianna Gower, Director
Brianna is a hardworking young professional with first-hand experience developing self-advocacy skills as a young person with a disability and experience in the mental health system. Dedicated to amplifying youth voice across the state, she works hard to spread messages of hope and resiliency to those around her. She began her time with YOUTH POWER! serving as a mentor for the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program and after graduating in 2014 from Sage College of Albany, she began working as YOUTH POWER!’s Youth Engagement Consultant. During this time she led the E3: Engage, Educate, Employ initiative in partnership with the NYS Department of Labor. As this initiative came to a close, she then began her work with the NYS Success initiative, ensuring our system of care is youth-guided. As her role in YOUTH POWER! grew and developed, she then went on to serve as the Social Marketing and Events Coordinator, working closely with YP! members, partners, and other stakeholders. Leveraging her years of experience growing through different roles in the youth peer profession and gaining critical expertise in mentoring, youth peer advocacy, program/event coordination, social marketing, and providing trainings and technical assistance, she is excited to serve as the Director of YOUTH POWER! in this new era of leadership.
Bianca Logan, Youth Peer Development & Training Manager
Bianca is a passionate young professional who has personal experience in the mental health and special education systems. She has been working professionally in the youth movement since 2012 with 8 years volunteer experience prior. Bianca is passionate about all things youth and determined to make sure youth voice is represented at all levels in her community and beyond. She comes with experience working directly with young people and also supporting young professionals in her community. She serves as a member of the Youth Peer Services Advisory Council working towards the development of the NYS Youth Peer Advocate Credential, training, and the implementation of Youth Peer Advocate workforce in New York State. Bianca has experience serving on both the Families Together in NYS and YOUTH POWER! board of directors. Bianca’s experience with YOUTH POWER! has shown her the power and strength of the peer movement. She respects the movement, its history, and its future. Keeping the integrity of the peer movement is important to Bianca as Youth Peer Services are formalized in NYS. Bianca is excited to be working with the Regional Youth Partners across the state to support communities with their youth involvement and implement Youth Peer Advocates successfully and sustainably. She believes this will enhance the wraparound experience for young people.
Bianca wholeheartedly believes that youth are our future, and they deserve to feel empowered to play a role in shaping the next generation, inclusive of Peer Professionals. Most of all she encourages young people to have HOPE that the future can be a better place!
Elijah Fagan-Solis, Statewide Emerging Leadership Manager
Elijah Fagan-Solis, a God-fearing Capital Region native, is a highly motivated, young professional with firsthand, lived experienced as a person with a disability. At age 14, Elijah was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Failure and labeled disabled. Despite the label placed on him, Elijah was determined not to let a disability control his life or future; through all the trials and tribulations he faced with his health, Elijah graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Hudson Valley Community College, and Magna Cum Laude from the Sage College of Albany. While at HVCC, Elijah was honored by the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York for winning the David A. Garfinkel Essay Competition and had his essay published in Judicial Notice, as well as participated in a documentary about his involvement with the contest. Elijah has worked with the NYS Assembly, is a member of two national honor societies, and has received awards for involvement in his community, and for his belief in the ability of people to change, grow, and make a contribution to the world. Elijah participates in charity events and fundraisers such as the National Kidney Foundations Kidney Walk and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital’s Walk in the Park. Elijah also volunteers his time to do community service and is highly active with his church where he serves as a Deacon, the administrative assistant, and heads the youth ministry among other responsibilities.
Alex Carpenter, Western Regional Youth Partner
Alex started facing mental health issues at a young age that carried on into young adulthood. Without the right support, his unaddressed mental health led him down a troubled path. In his journey, he overcame addiction and involvement in the criminal justice system. After struggling with services, he found recovery in peer led groups and started informally mentoring others in these groups. Alex received an opportunity to be a youth peer advocate, and soon after got involved with YOUTH POWER!. Alex is the newest Regional Youth Partner and is motivated to help everyone as much as he can. Alex tries his best to live a life of recovery now and is a father to a beautiful little girl. His passions in advocacy lie in the criminal justice, drug addiction, and mental health services fields.
Alexander Frisina, Long Island Regional Youth Partner
Alexander Frisina is a hardworking and dedicated young professional that was labeled with Special Education needs at an early age. Adopted at a young age by a family located in Eastern Long Island, Alex is the youngest of four siblings, and the only adopted member of his family. Facing issues of self-identity Alex struggled with depression. Throughout the decision-making process of his treatment, he felt voiceless and was made to believe he had no choices. This feeling pushed Alex to seek alternative methods of expression; which lead him down the road of creative writing. Alex used his writing to not only express himself but also escape from the feeling of being powerless and unheard. Since graduating from King’s College located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Alex has been seeking a position that uses his creative background to help make a difference. Learning about the work YOUTH POWER! has done and the goals they are working towards Alex realized his past experience could be used to help others dealing with similar situations. Pulling from past experiences and gaining knowledge every day Alex hopes to push for change and spread the work of YOUTH POWER!
Amanda Davidson, Youth Outreach & Engagement Coordinator
Phone: 518-432-0333 ext. 26
Cell Phone: 518-949-4338
Amanda is a driven, confident young individual who plans on making the world a better place for young people step by step. Her experience in mental health, child welfare, has allowed her to grow a new skill to recognize the ability for change. She knows she wants to empower young people of all ages and help them to also recognize their ability to seek change and actively make their voices heard in society. Amanda works state wide to amplify youth voice in systems that involve suicide prevention, school mental health education, child welfare, kinship/foster care and many others. She has shared her story in front of the whole NYS Board of Education including Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, to influence the new mental health education curriculum law passed in July of 2018, the 2018 Suicide Prevention Conference sharing her own personal experience with suicide and what helped or harmed her during that time, the 2018 System of Care Summit explaining her transition from child serving systems to the adult serving systems, 2019 Families Together in NYS Annual Conference, 2019 School Mental Health Resource & Training Center Regional Summit and MANY other conferences, meetings, councils and committees sharing her story and experiences of a troubled past. She also participates with many councils and committee event planning groups to ensure young people are properly represented in the systems that we celebrate.
With all of these opportunities, she has realized her passion is to support young involved in the child welfare systems with whom live mental health challenges. She is deeply passionate about the mental health education law and ensuring students have the best supports and resources when it comes to learning such an important topic! With her story told throughout different outlets, she hopes youth can find power in sharing their own story because Amanda knows our stories matter!
Ashley Rivera, Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator
Ashley Rivera is a natural born advocate. With years of experience navigating the foster care system, advocating for her siblings and herself became second nature. Throughout her years in foster care, Ashley dealt with anxiety, depression and self-identity. Through self-advocacy and natural supports Ashley was able to find treatment through faith-based interventions. Ashley has been involved with promoting youth advocacy since High School. She worked on Juvenile Justice projects such as, Alternative to Detention programs in NYC, engaging youth to advocate for funding Educational opportunity programs on college campuses. Ashley has a Bachelor’s of Science from SUNY Plattsburgh in Political Science and Latin American Studies. Ashley is currently serving Youth Power as the Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator on the NYS Systems of Care grant. Simultaneously, she works as a community support worker providing skill-building to youth facing their own mental health barriers. Ashley is dedicated to empowering youth and encouraging systems change so youth voice is inclusive and at the forefront of change.
Azaria Georger, Youth Peer Services Training & Credentialing Coordinator
Azaria has a history of working with and for youth and young adults. This stems from the care and support she received while growing up in the foster care system. Azaria was in and out of foster care since the age of 13 and has multiple mental health diagnoses. Azaria has personally experienced the power of love, support, and caring from others who helped her find her voice, drive, and have supported her personal successes. Azaria turned her passion into supporting others to find their voices. Prior to starting this position, she has worked directly with youth to support them in finding their voice at home and in school as a Youth Mentor, Youth Ambassador, and in residential care as a Youth Care Professional. Azaria earned her Bachelors in Social Work from SUNY Brockport in 2013 after aging out of foster care at 21 while studying abroad in Vietnam.
Carly DelVecchio, Central Regional Youth Partner
Carly DelVecchio’s personal struggles with mental health began in middle school. This life-altering experience ultimately sparked her passion for supporting others to live abundant lives in spite of their diagnoses. Carly graduated from Houghton College with her BA in Psychology in December 2016 and soon began working with the Mental Health Advocates of WNY as a Youth Peer Advocate. In April 2018, she joined the team at YOUTH POWER! of Families Together in New York State as the Western Regional Youth Partner. One year later, she moved to Syracuse, NY and transitioned into the role of Central Regional Youth Partner.
In addition to her work with YOUTH POWER!, Carly is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work through Rutgers University. She is married to her best friend and they are expecting a baby girl in September 2019. In her free time, Carly enjoys reading, going for walks, visiting local coffee shops, and writing about her faith and the day-to-day challenges of living with a mental health diagnosis on her personal blog, Jesus, Coffee, and Prozac. (Feel free to check it out at www.jesuscoffeeandprozac.com). To connect with Carly, send her a friend request on Facebook, shoot her a quick email or text, or give her a call!
Imari Wilson, Hudson River Regional Youth Partner
Imari is no stranger to advocating for others. Since a young age they’ve unconsciously looked to make others around feel included and accepted. Growing up having older siblings in the foster care system, juvenile justice system, and having a serious medical illness, Imari felt they had to minimize their needs to make space for others. This created some unhealthy habits. It wasn’t until experiencing a significant loss in their late teens that they began to positively accept and voice their needs, and address the obstacles that challenged him. Imari has now gained confidence and strength by exploring and identifying their mental health needs, as well as, liberating himself through transition. This self-work and lived experience brought them into the mental health field as a Youth Peer Advocate (YPA). Now in a place where he can make space for himself and others, Imari aims to continue to raise visibility to those that need it and see a more inclusive world than the day before.
Zack Kilmer, NYISA Coordinator
Zack Kilmer is an autistic LGBTQ+ young adult who has had a passion for activism and civics since he was a child. Raised by a single mother and brought up in special education programs, Zack knows the struggles young people face and wants to change the system to better suit their needs. He is excited and honored to be working with YOUTH POWER! to achieve that goal. Before joining YP!, Zack graduated from SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in English & Political Science. Shortly after, he worked on the New York 19th District 2016 Congressional Election in support of Zephyr Teachout. He then used the skills learned in that race to run his own campaign for Town Council in his hometown of East Greenbush.
Shainek Edmundson, NYC Regional Youth Partner
Shainek is a resilient, self motivated young adult who has experience with the foster care system. From an early age she has been an advocate for herself along with young people she came across. She helps to provide hope by being a positive example in her community and striving for excellence each day. She identifies herself as creative as she uses the arts as a form of self expression and therapy. Being passionate about justice and systematic change, Shainek is motivated to help educate individuals about various issues to raise awareness. Recently receiving her Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and becoming the newest Regional Youth Partner, Shainek is excited to leave a long lasting impact on her peers through advocacy and exposure.
Staff of YOUTH POWER!
We pride ourselves on being a peer run network. Families Together in NYS employs youth and young adults with disabilities and/or cross-systems experiences to mentor young leaders and coordinate YP! network activities.