Holyoke Nights Peer Leader Isabel Negroni

Isabel Negroni

Isabel

Holyoke Nights, Peer leader, Youth manager

Isabel is a senior at Holyoke High and she’s been part of the Holyoke Youth Task Force and  Holyoke nights for 4 years.  She’s planning to continue her education after graduation  in the field of forensic science. As a peer leader for Holyoke Nights Isabel is responsible for running the weekly meetings and along with other youth she assigns event tasks and guides everyone is choosing themes, decorations, locations and music.  She also runs various workshops to promote youth development.

Some of the past event she has been responsible for are this year’s Valentines dance, Holyoke Idol,  Fright Night and a Luau. Currently Holyoke Nights is planning a Scavenger hunt for April, a You have Choice’s event and a Slip and Slide event.

 

Isabel, what is the purpose of Holyoke Nights?

To show youth that they can still go to a party without drugs and alcohol and still have fun.

Why is that important?

Being under the influence of drugs and alcohol can put you in dangerous situations and effect the rest of your life if something bad happens.

Do you think the Holyoke Nights events are making a difference?

Holyoke Youth are excited about the events we have and ask me when the next event is, they have so much fun and realize they can have fun without using substances.

I really like running the program because it’s such a rush that 500 kids are at our events instead of house parties where they could get in trouble.

LOGO & tag

HYTF Coalition Selects New Fiscal Agent

Thanks to the incredible support and engagement of Holyoke Youth Task Force coalition members and Steering Committee this spring and summer, we are excited to announce that the proposal from The Children’s Study Home has been selected by members as the best fit to be our new fiscal sponsor!

Since the release of our Request for Proposals (RFP) in June, HYTF coalition members have reviewed proposals, met for discussion, and attended applicant presentations all with the goal of finding the HYTF a new home. Our nearly ten year partnership with Girls Inc. of Holyoke has been phenomenal, but as we have outgrown space and broadened our mission, it has become important to join with a new partner that can take Holyoke’s youth to the next level.

HYTF youth and coalition members listen to fiscal agent applicants present on July 18th, 2013.

HYTF youth and coalition members listen to fiscal agent applicants present on July 18th, 2013.

In a comprehensive voting process that concluded on August 16th, The Children’s Study Home proposal scored highest in financial and administrative capacity, mission and values alignment and community interests. In the months ahead, HYTF staff, Girls Inc. and The Children’s Study Home will work together to facilitate this new relationship and transition. Please join us for our open coalition meetings to stay involved, every third Thursday of each month from 11:30 – 1:00 at the the Girls Inc. Teen Center.

From the beginning, the HYTF has worked to make our search for a new fiscal agent as open and transparent as possible. Below please find the scoring results for both applicant agencies in two forms–a spreadsheet of score totals, and a pdf featuring graph representations of how coalition members scored applicant agencies on priority criteria.

Anonymous Fiscal Agent Score Totals

Fiscal Agent Search Graph RESULTS

We look forward to updating you about this new partnership in the months ahead. Thank you to all who participated!

Youth Commission Partners with Holyoke Senior Center

Senior Center 1The Holyoke Youth Commission voted to spend summer 2013 partly focusing on intergenerational work, and made some truly amazing connections.

In a brainstorm about positive changes in Holyoke last spring, the Youth Commission identified the building of the new Senior Center as a project that seemed exciting and inspired their curiosity. What began as an interest in a changing built environment in Holyoke blossomed into true interest in the history of the city carried through the unique experiences of its residents, with seniors being a critical part of our city’s story. In May, members of the Holyoke Youth Commission met with Senior Center Director Kathleen Bowler to find out how they could get more involved with the city’s senior community in a way that would be truly helpful and facilitate breaking down barriers that might traditionally exist between teens and seniors.

The Youth Commission initially suggested using the Senior Center’s new computer lab to do some instruction about social media, but Ms. Bowler told them that what senior center members really needed was some technical support with their cell phones, smart phones, tablets, Kindles, laptops and other devices—technical support that came naturally to members of a generation of “digital natives.”

Girls Inc Breakfast 327The “Teen Technology Doctors” project began in early July and lasted about 6 weeks, with Holyoke Youth Commissioners setting up a booth in the Senior Center lobby every Tuesday from 11:00am to 1:00 pm. Center members coming in and out for classes and lunch were greeted by Youth Commissioners ready to assist them with any lingering questions about their portable technology—technology that can often be more intuitive to troubleshoot for teens than seniors (though we did encounter a huge number of tech savvy individuals!)

The collaboration was wildly successful. After assisting 3 or 4 members on their first day, the Holyoke Youth Commission’s “Teen Technology Doctor” booth attracted 17 people on their busiest day, and frequently had a line waiting for them already when they arrived each week. Common troubleshooting involved ringtones and voicemail, Kindle functions, and photo taking and storing in phones and laptops. While Youth Commissioners worked on fixing these devices, conversation flowed naturally about Holyoke’s history and community, about family, and about both teens’ and seniors’ hobbies and other interests. Youth Commissioners were surprised to learn, for example, that the Senior Center is built on a spot that once housed Holyoke High School, and that many residents who visited this address as high school students are doing so again as retirees.

SeniorCenter“[The Holyoke Youth Commission] wanted to outreach to seniors because they were the past youth of Holyoke,” Youth Commissioner Karyann Cruz wrote when asked to reflect on her time at the Senior Center. “Seniors are a big part of our present and we want to compare our lifestyles. We feel like seniors and teens relate because both can be stereotyped because of their age. Since teens are younger many people may think that we can’t make a difference in our community because we are so young. On the other hand seniors can also be stereotyped because many teens may think that they are older so they can’t relate with the current things happening today.”

Youth Commission & Senior Center 3Karyann continued, “Before we went to the Senior Center I felt like our main goal was to help the seniors with technology. But, after the experience I realized it was about interacting and finding ways we relate to each other. Some of the best moments of each day were when we had the opportunity to sit with some of them and explain who we were and why we were there, and hear about their lives too.”

In her reflection, Youth Commissioner Dora Castillo wrote about breaking down boundaries: “Not only did I get to help people get more comfortable with technology, I also got to know some residents of Holyoke I might not have had the chance to talk to before because of stereotypes we can have of each other.”

Many Youth Commissioners expressed surprise at the ageism parallels affecting both teens and seniors, and agreed that future collaboration now that school has started will be really important. “In some ways,” wrote Dora, “we really aren’t so different from each other.”

Girls Inc Breakfast 215The Holyoke Youth Commission looks forward to continuing this partnership during holiday weeks over the next year, and perhaps getting more youth groups involved. For questions about the Holyoke Youth Commission’s Senior Allies project, please contact us!

Holyoke Youth Commission Tests iCivics Curriculum

Good citizenship doesn’t begin when you turn 18, nor are all those who are under the voting age oblivious to the local politics of their communities. Young people, with their passion and energy, are an ideal audience for local leaders looking to engage with the next generation of change-makers, but too often political conversations and community-wide civic action are conducted in realms that are not immediately accessible or welcoming to youth. The 2010 census reported a full one third of Holyoke residents are under age 20, positioning youth as a formidable piece of the city’s pie, and one who needs to be as civically engaged as possible.

Holyoke Youth Commissioners review the iCivics games at the Gill Technology Center

Holyoke Youth Commissioners review the iCivics games at the Gill Technology Center

The Holyoke Youth Commission has been working to bridge this gap for over ten years, hosting trainings and events with youth civic engagement in mind. Prominent among these has been the Youth Candidate Forum, held each election cycle as an opportunity for Mayoral, City Council and School Committee candidates to meet with youth and answer their questions directly. This fall, the Youth Commission is planning another Candidate Forum and working furiously on ways to engage their peers in this election cycle. Many young people aren’t sure how these local government positions and initiatives taken by local leaders can practically affect their daily lives or make substantive changes to the issues they care about. The Youth Commission is looking to educate other youth about how local government works, and encourage them to ask tough questions even though they may not be able to actually vote yet. Youth are still enormously influential to the political scene, volunteering for campaigns and discussing issues and candidates with their friends and family, and the Youth Commission is committed to ensuring that teens in Holyoke have the information they need to have informed discussion on the issues critical to them.

To support their upcoming plans, the Youth Commission participated in a focus group on August 7th co-sponsored by Five College Community Based Learning Center and Holyoke Community College’s Gill Technology Center to explore the iCivics online curriculum as a possible tool for instructing other youth on the political process. Facilitated by CBL’s Monica Freeland and Gill’s Sarah Schmidt, the Youth Commission tested a series of educational games and reviewed them for their accessibility, engaging qualities, and learning potential. “This game made me thing about how much work it is to be the Mayor of a town,” wrote one Youth Commissioner on the anonymous evaluation form, “I think it does a really good job teaching all the parts of a local government.” Reviewing the same game, another Commissioner wrote, “I would teach other youth using this game because it definitely helps them to learn where to go if they have a public problem they want fixed.”

Dora Castillo and Karyann Cruz express skepticism at an iCivics candidate debate simulation.

Dora Castillo and Karyann Cruz express skepticism at an iCivics candidate debate simulation.

Another game featuring a mock candidate debate drew more mixed reviews, because Youth Commissioners were frustrated that only canned questions were available to put to the candidates: “[My least favorite part of this game] was having to pick a question from them when I wanted ask one of my own,” wrote one reviewer, while another listed “Having to choose only one question for each topic” as the part they liked the least. The Youth Commissioners were generally most critical of game simulations where there was no opportunity to address personal concerns with fictional city governments, reinforcing that popular opinions about the disengagement of youth on local issues are unfounded. The Youth Commission is looking forward to continuing to explore iCivics this election season, and to the possibility of facilitating other youth using these games and lesson plans as tools. If you’d like to collaborate with the Youth Commission on iCivics in fall 2013, email us for more information!

Vote for the HYTF’s New Fiscal Agent!

As a coalition of youth-serving agencies made up of representatives from all over the city, the Holyoke Youth Task Force has been generously hosted by Girls Inc. of Holyoke for almost ten years. We are ready to move into our next phase of growth, and though our partnership will remain strong, the HYTF is simply too big to stay with Girls Inc. any longer. We launched our search for a new organization to fiscally sponsor the work of our coalition in spring 2013, and we are thrilled to announce that the search is almost over.

In response to the RFP we released on June 3rd, the HYTF received two proposals. On July 18th, these applicants–The Children’s Study Home and the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps–presented for our coalition members and answered questions about their vision for the future of youth work in Holyoke.

HYTF youth and coalition members listen to fiscal agent applicants present on July 18th, 2013.

HYTF youth and coalition members listen to fiscal agent applicants present on July 18th, 2013.

The HYTF is now ready to vote on which of these two phenomenal applicant agencies is the best match for the HYTF’s mission, and we need your help. Any coalition member who shares our goals of elevating youth voice in Holyoke and has a current, signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the HYTF is eligible to vote.

HYTF MOA’s can be downloaded here and faxed back to (413) 532-6454 or emailed to Leah@Youthtaskforce.org

Once we have received your signed MOA, HYTF staff will email you copies of the two proposals submitted by the applicants. After you’ve reviewed their contents, we invite you to submit your vote through our electronic scoring system and add your voice to this incredibly important decision. Electronic voting will close on August 16th at 5:00pm, and HYTF staff will announce the results on Friday, August 30th, 2013.

The electronic scoring system can be accessed here, and all results submitted are confidential.  

Who may vote:

  • Individuals and agencies that hold a current, active MOA with the Holyoke Youth Task Force (for the 3 year period of 2013-2016), and who have read the two proposals submitted by the applicants.
  • Individuals and agencies who are NOT receiving financial disbursement from the HYTF

Voting entails:

Why should my agency vote?

  • The Holyoke Youth Task Force is a coalition with a solid 10 year history of obtaining significant state and federal grants in partnership with our members. Member agencies with active MOA’s have the opportunity to partner with future grant applications.
  • The Holyoke Youth Task Force’s broad goal of collaborating across sectors to strengthen youth voice and resources in the City of Holyoke provides countless opportunities for resource sharing in support of other youth programs.
  • Current applicants for HYTF fiscal agency are both proposing a broad expansion of youth-serving work in Holyoke, and as an agency or individual that supports such efforts, your opinion on how to proceed in a way that is best for all organizations currently operating is invaluable.
  • More collaboration means more support for youth on all levels, including the opportunity for referrals and networking with other providers and specialists who can elevate your own efforts. rail platform planningmeeting

Holyoke Youth Task Force Announces RFP for New Fiscal Agent

UPDATE: The RFP is now CLOSED and all submissions have been received. If you would like to support the process of our search for a new fiscal agent, please contact us with questions or plan to attend our July 18th monthly coalition meeting, 11:30-1pm at 6 Open Square Way. 

The Holyoke Youth Task Force coalition is seeking a new fiscal agent! Interested agencies can download our RFP below, and direct any questions to:

Amy Epstein Interim Manager

(413) 532-6247 ext. 103

AEpstein@girlsincholyoke.org

HYTF Fiscal Agent RFP FINAL
youth commission

Save The Date: The HYTF is seeking a new fiscal agent!

footer-logoThe Holyoke Youth Task Force has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Girls Inc. of Holyoke as our coalition fiscal agent. As our programs have evolved, it has become clear to both the HYTF and Girls Inc. that it is time for our formal relationship to conclude so that each agency can most effectively prioritize our separate missions.

The Holyoke Youth Task Force (HYTF) is seeking a new fiscal agent to partner with us in our mission to strengthen the voice of youth in Holyoke and advocate for resources to meet their needs.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) outlining the coalition goals, needs, administrative and financial structure will be released by the HYTF on June 3, 2013.  Immediately following the release of the RFP, the HYTF and current fiscal agent Girls Inc. of Holyoke will host an Intent to Apply Q & A session on Friday, June 7th.  Agencies with any level of interest are invited to attend, and an RSVP by June 6th is required.

SAVE THE DATES:

Holyoke Youth Task Force Fiscal Agent RFP

Release date Monday, June 3, 2013

Holyoke Youth Task Force Fiscal Agent Search

Intent to Apply Q & A

Friday, June 7th, 2013  ♦  2:00 – 3:30 pm

6 Open Square Way, Holyoke, MA  (Girls Inc.)

RSVP by June 6th to Amy Epstein

AEpstein@girlsincholyoke.org

(413) 532-6247 ext. 103

Holyoke Youth Task Force Fiscal Agent Search

Applicant Presentations

HYTF Coalition Monthly Meeting

Thursday, July 18th, 2013  ♦  11:30am – 1:00pm

 

All inquiries in advance of June 1, 2013 may also be directed to Amy Epstein, Holyoke Youth Task Force Interim Manager.

 

HYTF Launches Sober Up Your Status Campaign

The Holyoke Youth Task Force is proud to announce the launch of our Sober Up Your Status (SUYS) campaign! SUYS is an experimental marketing campaign to reduce youth social media posts about drinking and drug use, and to educate the Holyoke community about responsible and safe social media use.

The HYTF believes that the online community forged through youth interaction with social media is an environment like any other, and requires the engagement and participation of adults and community-based organizations to make it a safer place for youth to be. According to a 2012 study by Common Sense Media, 67% of teens have access to a mobile device that connects to the internet. 90% of teens have visited a social media site and 75% maintain a profile. Given this data, it seems impossible to discount the ability of social media engagement to influence youth perception about their peers’ activities. The Sober Up Your Status campaign was created to educate youth in Holyoke about the possible repercussions of exposing their online communities to messages about drugs and alcohol.

SUYS Peer Educators: Raul, Neishalee and Aisha on their first day at work!

Peer Education 

Sober Up Your Status will be implemented from April – August of 2013 with the help of three phenomenal Peer Educators, who were hired after an exhaustive search. We asked them to write short personal statements to introduce themselves to the community and explain a little about why this work is inspiring to them.

Raul Devers

Hi, my name is Raul Devers. I’m a seventeen year old teen father who works for the Sober Up Your Status campaign. I feel very strongly about teens degrading themselves on social media by saying they are high or they woke up with a hangover. These teens feel cool when they do things like this and they make others feel pressured into not being sober. It reminds me of my aunt who passed away from very strong drug use, which began with a little pressure just as the teens now experience—this is an ongoing issue. It’s a really good thing to look responsible on social media because you can say the wrong thing and have the wrong friend who was on your page at the wrong time. This might include teenagers you’re trying to persuade about doing good at the moment, and then you mess up everything when they see how irresponsible you we are being on that social network.

Also important people such as your boss and leaders of the community who are starting to respect you could see negative posts, and you slip up and lose all the respect! What I would say to an adult who down talks social media sites such as Twitter and or Facebook is that maybe I can show them that it can be the total opposite than what they believe it to be by showing them how teens express their feelings there. Teens use it to share how things make them feel nowadays; it’s hard on them when adults don’t listen to those little hints thrown at them. The hardest part for me in this job would be speaking in big crowds but I can work around it.

Neishalee Alvarado

My name is Neishalee Alvarado and I work for Sober Up Your Status! The way I feel about other teens posting online about being drunk or doing drugs, I feel like they do it for attention, to be cool, and more. It makes me feel like they don’t know what they are doing putting harm in their bodies, I see that I look at them different. I don’t look at them with the respect that I look at others with. I think it’s very important to set examples to everyone, not just friends, family members, people all around. I set an example to my little brothers and sister the most. I want them to grow up as a good people, to be kind, when they use the internet I want them to use it the right way. I want them and everyone else that looks up to me to see that you can make a change, it doesn’t matter how old you are if you have something to say, speak up.

I think Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc, are important because you can learn a lot on them. You don’t just go on them and just update your statues or anything like that. If you have the right people on your page, the ones that can give off good examples you can learn a lot. A lot of things that are said on the internet are true, that’s why you need to be careful what you write or what you put on the internet. I think the hardest part [of this job] will be to work with new people, at times I can be shy. After awhile I get use to it, but I would stick to it because I like to try new things, I wouldn’t want to give up on an opportunity like this. To speak up, to set an example, most importantly to make a change!

Aisha Cruz

My name is Aisha Cruz. I am 16 years old and I work for Sober Up Your Status. I am a peer educator and there are a couple personal things I would like to share with you today. My personal experience with alcohol, smoking, etc. is that I lived around people that did it all the time and didn’t realize how others felt. Today what I see lately on the Internet are young teens doing the same things; drinking, smoking and using drugs, and they don’t realize how it affects others when they see it. When I see photos and videos of many teens doing that, it brings sadness and hurt to me because that is not a good start in life. I think is important to project a responsible image to the online community because it is a way where you can show how well you really use the Web for good. I would want to set an example for my family, but also mostly my friends because they are teens. I would like to earn my respect from my friends, and not only them but also other people that look at my page.

I think is important for organizations like the Holyoke Youth Task Force to go online because that is where teenagers are and spent most of their time. If an adult came to me and said that Facebook and Twitter are not important, my response would be, “I don’t think so because that is where we can reach out to teenagers, but also adults.” I think the hardest part about working in the Sober Up Your Status campaign is talking. It is difficult at first since I am new at this. I still want to do this work because I do want to reach to other teenagers any possible way I can.

Thank you to all three of our amazing SUYS Peer Educators! In the near future we will be available to do workshops with the youth in your organizations about safe and responsible social media usage. If you’d like us to put on a workshop for your program, please contact Leah Uberseder at leah@youthtaskforce.org or by calling (413) 532-6247 ext. 108.

Holyoke Nights Holds “We Are Listening” Event on Teen Suicide

On March 27th, Holyoke youth, community members, parents and others gathered in the Holyoke Health Center (HHC) to talk about the issue of teen suicide and depression in our city. Co-Sponsored by Holyoke Nights and the HHC’s Peer Health Advisory Board (PHAB), the event was called “We Are Listening” in an effort to highlight the community of resources and support systems that may otherwise be invisible to a hurting teen.

A completely youth led-event, “We Are Listening” was an idea of the Holyoke Nights youth planning committee after the loss of friend and former Holyoke Nights DJ Hector Ofray in December. The planning committee partnered with PHAB because of the HHC group’s expertise on health and mental health-related issues, and together the two groups envisioned an open forum for other youth to learn about suicide and depression, access community resources, and receive support and care from their peers. “We Are Listening” also received significant assistance from the Holyoke Equal Rights Association (HERA) in recognition that GLBTQ youth can be disproportionately at risk for suicide and depression.

Youth attendees arrived to a space adorned with affirming posters, declaring “You are Loved,” “You are Strong,” and “You Matter.” Participants were able to receive complimentary massages from a professional masseuse on site, speak with one of the two Holyoke Health Center counselors available for the event, lounge in the snuggle corner, or add to the Memory Wall in recognition of those they’d lost. PHAB put on an educational presentation about recognizing the signs of depression and suicide risk, how to respond, and who to contact. After a raffle of several self-care related prizes, including a journal, home spa kits, and two massage gift certificates, youth were able to participate in an open mic. Participants shared performance pieces and poems about the issues of suicide, loss, depression, and hope for the future.

Masseuse Sheila Petigny goes to work. Thanks, Sheila!

The evening concluded with a showing of the family movie “Cyberbully,” in which a young woman attempts suicide after experiencing significant online and in person harassment from her peers. Attendees were able to take home resources about local mental health care, youth suicide risk, self-care activities and community programs. Holyoke Nights and PHAB were both thrilled with the turnout, and we all look forward to keeping the conversation about these important issues open and proactive going forward. Thanks to all who came out to support the youth of Holyoke on this important!

Read more about the event in the Holyoke Sun!

Resources:  River Valley Counseling: (413) 540-1234

ServiceNet: (413) 592-5414 / (413) 585-1328

Local Crisis Line: (413) 536-2251

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) / www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Our table of resources

 

Strategic Planning and the Holyoke Youth Task Force

This January, the Holyoke Youth Task Force began a process of strategic planning to map out our next five years of work. Our strategic planning committee includes representatives from many different organizations in Holyoke, several youth representatives of current programs, city and police department representatives and others. Each month we meet to examine the HYTF’s position in the community, our goals and direction for the future, and the best methodology for getting there. This process will culminate in two city-wide summits, one for youth and another for adults, to frame the direction and purpose of the HYTF’s next stage of growth.

HYTF Staff Leah Uberseder and Youth Commissioner Anysha Diaz

One of the youth members of the committee is Anysha Diaz, who is representing the Holyoke Youth Commission. Anysha and I sat down to interview each other about how the process of Strategic Planning has been so far and what our hopes are for the future.

Anysha: What do you think can be accomplished with the strategic planning meetings?

Leah: So much! I think that we will accomplish a solid vision and plan for the next five years. We are at a huge turning point with our funding and our fiscal agency relationship with Girls Incorporated, and it is time to use this moment of change to propel ourselves to the next level. Because of the many different people on the team, I see that we will really be able to get some direction from our coalition partners of how we can best serve them. I want to see milestones and clear direction on the issues and focus of our work. And I want to hear from the youth members on the team about what you want to change and where you want to go. We will leave this process with a solid plan for the next five years, and be able to know whether or not we are being successful along the way.

Leah:  Why do you think it’s good to have a strategic planning process that involves so many different community members and youth?

Anysha:  It’s important to have different community members and youth at the strategic planning meetings because then you get more input from a larger variety of people. This is because you can get feedback from what youth think in Holyoke, not just the adults. Therefore the youth can have an insight and input towards the topic discussed at the meetings. It is also good to have different community members because you get different ideas.

Anysha: Why do you think the Holyoke Youth Task Force is important?

Leah: A few weeks ago,  we were able to have Enlace De Familias Executive Director Betty Medina-Lichtenstein come and give a talk to our strategic planning group, and she gave this remarkable overview of the founding of the HYTF that none of us knew. In the late 1990’s, a group came together to really take action to support youth inHolyoke. In the beginning, everyone volunteered, and this dedicated group was able to find funding and other support to really make the HYTF a solid, working entity. I think that story in itself is a testament to how important it is to have a platform for youth voice and youth relationship with the City, as well as to have a support mechanism for adult youth workers to come together and increase opportunities and safe spaces for young people. The origins of the HYTF were truly grassroots, and represented a need that this community saw to amplify youth voices. That need hasn’t gone away!

Leah:   What are some of your biggest hopes for how the Holyoke Youth Task Force can grow and get better from this strategic planning process?

Anysha: My biggest hopes for the HYTF to grow I think is to first advertise themselves so that way more people know who they are and the work they do that helps Holyoke youth in great ways, so that they can be around for a while and not die off. So the hope is to get more recognition there for to some day be a bigger part and do more things in Holyoke.

Anysha:  Do you think there is anything that the Holyoke Youth Task Force should change in order to grow and become better?

Leah: I think there are always things an organization can do to grow, and that we are no different. That is the thing that is so great to me about strategic planning, since it is that time to really look at things and identify what is or isn’t working. One thing that has emerged really clearly to me (and you too, apparently!) is that we need to become better at talking to other people—youth and adults—about what we do and what we can provide for them. At the same time, we need to increase our offerings to our coalition partners. I want to see us as a go-to resource for professional development opportunities and support for all the youth-serving agencies in Holyoke, and that’s one part program and another part marketing. Finally, and most importantly, we need to do the same thing with the youth in our programs; we need to provide clear opportunities for leadership as well as the training and oversight to support that leadership. I think we are on our way!

Leah:  What have you learned about the Holyoke Youth Task Force that you didn’t know before being part of this committee?

Anysha: What I learned about Holyoke Youth Task Force that I didn’t know before being a part of this committee is that they are a not their own fiscal agent but that Girls Inc. is theirs. And that Girls Inc. oversees everything and gets percentages from whatever grants the Task Force gets to do this. Which isn’t always the best thing, but it is very hard to become your own agent [i.e. becoming a 501c.3 organization] and there is a long process to do so. Also, there are reasons that the Task Force needs to represent a lot of other groups and not be their own fiscal agent.

Anysha:  What do you think can be the biggest accomplishment by the Holyoke Youth Task Force or is the biggest accomplishment they have done?

Leah: I think the Youth Commission’s role is an incredible thing. It’s an enormous responsibility to represent the youth of Holyoke, and to have the ear and support of the City of Holyoke for your projects. I think the potential there is unlimited, and I am looking forward to the strategic planning process to define these roles and firm up our ability to do this work. I also think that, on the youth worker side of things, the HYTF as a coalition is really fantastic. The fact that every third Thursday of each month we are able to bring together so many amazing people to find opportunities to collaborate in support of Holyoke youth, that is just incredible.

Thanks for chatting, Anysha!

The Holyoke Youth Task Force strategic planning process is open to anyone in our community. We utilize online project management software so that all of our notes, discussions and decision-making can be visible to anyone who would like to participate or offer a comment. If you would like to join in, send an email to Leah@youthtaskforce.org to receive the log-in information to our strategic planning site. Stay tuned to our social networking pages and this blog for announcements of our upcoming youth and adult summits. We look forward to engaging event further with our community!