VOYA

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.

Current Projects

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 voya.rensco@youthpowerny.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.

Download our application here!

QUESTIONS?

Contact Ashley Rivera
Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator
Phone: 518-560-9880
voya.rensco@youthpowerny.org

Like VOYA on Facebook!

Brianna Gower, Director

Brianna Gower, Director

Pronoun: She/Her
Email: BGower@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 518-598-2467

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 Logan, Youth Peer Development & Training Manager

Pronoun: She/Her
Email: BLogan@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 585-465-8166

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, Statewide Emerging Leadership Manager

Pronoun: He/Him
Email: EFagan@youthpowerny.org

Phone: 518-432-0333 ext. 19
Cell: 518-949-4617
www.facebook.com/YOUTHPOWERNY.ANY

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 Carpenter, Western Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: He/Him
Email: ACarpenter@YOUTHPOWERNY.org
Phone: 585-314-2452

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, Long Island Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: He/Him
Email: 
AFrisina@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 631-245-5289
www.facebook.com/YOUTHPOWERNY.LongIsland

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

Amanda Davidson, Youth Outreach & Engagement Coordinator

Pronoun: She/Her
Email: ADavidson@youthpowerny.org
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, Youth Wraparound Implementation Coordinator

Pronoun: She/Her
Email: ARivera@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 518-560-9880

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 Georger, Youth Peer Services Training & Credentialing Coordinator

Pronoun: She/Her
Email:
AGeorger@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 585-866-9333

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, Central Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: She/Her
Email:
 CDelVecchio@YOUTHPOWERNY.org
Phone: 315-679-1476
www.facebook.com/YOUTHPOWERNY.Central

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 Wilson, Hudson River Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: He/Him/They/Them
Email: iwilson@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 518-322-2096
www.facebook.com/YOUTHPOWERNY.HudsonRiver

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, NYISA Coordinator

Pronoun: He/Him
Email: ZKilmer@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 518-708-3808
www.facebook.com/zack.kilmer.7

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 Edmundson, NYC Regional Youth Partner

Pronoun: She/Her
Email: SEdmundson@youthpowerny.org
Phone: 518-708-3808

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.

 

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