Youth Villages stories

Elina - Achieving Success, Las Vegas

Looking Back to Look Forward: What I learned from the Achieving Success Workshop

Jan 11, 2024 | Blog

Written By Elina M.

Former LifeSet Scholar, Youth Villages Lived Experience Corps member, Master’s degree in public policy at University of Michigan 2023

It was an amazing opportunity to attend the Achieving Success Workshop on Partnering with Transition Age Youth for Strong Mental Health. As a former foster youth, who aged out of the system at 21 years old, I can attest to the significance of having mental health resources that felt age-appropriate and spoke directly to my needs and interests as I made the transition into adulthood and out of care.

At this convening, I left not only feeling inspired about the work that states and organizations are doing to meet the needs of transition-age youth, but more importantly, I felt empowered to continue working towards equitable and accessible resources that can help transform the lives of older youth.

Presenters Ivory Bennett (left) and Deborah Denzel (right) from Fostering Media Connections

Presenters Ivory Bennett (left) and Deborah Denzel (right) from Fostering Media Connections.

One of my favorite sessions was the Looking Back to Look Forward panel with Deborah Denzel and Ivory Bennett of Fostering Connections. Together, they spoke about proactive and holistic approaches to prepare youth for strong mental health. In speaking about their journeys, they stressed the importance of having resources- from community support to mentorship, and educational support—for transition-age youth as they experience different chapters of their lives and have different needs. Their panel encouraged me to reflect on my journey through the system and the support that helped guide me into the person that I am today.

Lived experience youth at Achieving Success conference

I also enjoyed hearing from researchers across the country who presented their own findings on how to support transition-age youth with high acuity needs. They were able to present their work in an accessible way and left me feeling inspired to use my own career in public policy and data analysis as a catalyst for change.

The child welfare system can be an isolating and traumatizing experience for many youths. Additionally, so many of us can come into the system with our own traumas and mental health needs, whether we are a youth or a specialist or a caregiver. This convening elevated an urgent call to action for all of us to prioritize our mental health and for the child welfare system overall to invest in holistic mental health supports so that we can live the safe and healthy lives that we deserve.

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