Monday, December 12, 2011

Working With Our Future Leaders: High School Youth “Soundout” for Civic Engagement

Contributed by Amber Walker

The highlight of my year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member so far has been serving as a facilitator for SoundOut, Catalyst Miami’s Youth Leadership Training Institute.  SoundOut is a free, 22-week evening leadership training program designed for students aged 13-18. SoundOut includes practical instruction that aims to cultivate student leadership, enhance project design and development skills, and empower youth issues and concerns within communities. The program culminates with students designing their own service projects.
Our inaugural cohort started this November at Miami-Northwestern Senior High School in Liberty City. Although housed at Northwestern, our students represent schools from across Miami-Dade County. Participants explore issues related to community involvement, education and school improvement. So far, the topics we have covered include: expressing youth voice, defining identity, and working effectively with various leadership styles.
SoundOut is the newest component of the Catalyst Miami Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI). FLTI offers similar curricula for younger children and adults. One of the most powerful aspects of the program is children, youth and adults are exploring these topics together. This provides an opportunity for parents and their children to engage in conversations and take action regarding issues they feel passionately about as a family. Although Catalyst Miami hosted the adult and child components of the program in the past, this is the first class of high-school aged youth, officially providing an avenue for all members of the family to participate. There is even childcare for the little ones under six!
 Graduates of the program have gone on to run for office, designed community projects and founded their own organizations. I have no doubts that our SoundOut youth will accomplish amazing things during the program and beyond!