On Saturday, September 26, 2020, the Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT) and partners hosted the 30th Annual Teen Conference via Zoom for youth in Maine’s Child Welfare System and the adults who care for them. Over 70 youth and adults participated in the conference, a turnout that reflects young people’s commitment to celebrating all things YLAT.
The theme for this year’s conference, “30 Years: Won’t Stop Believing” was especially fitting considering the amount of adaptation required to successfully host YLAT’s first virtual conference. Throughout the day, youth and adults collaborated in creating a space of learning, belonging, and hope for the future.
The day was filled with celebration of the accomplishments of the youth and adults who create a powerful community for Maine’s youth in care. Through each portion of the conference, from a youth-led teambuilding activity to workshops related to education, work readiness, art, and writing, youth emcees carried the energy and truly embodied the YLAT ethos of youth-adult partnership.
Conference attendees were privileged to engage in a virtual conversation with keynote presenter, Alexandria Zertuche, an alumnus of the Youth Leadership Advisory Team. Alix was the first young person to advocate for her extended care agreement to be re-opened after it was closed, paving the way for future policy improvements and hundreds of young people that came after her to get the extra support they needed to transition into adulthood. In true YLAT fashion, the day ended with a Zoom singalong to “Don’t Stop Believin’”, a testament to the joy and passion each conference attendee brought to the day.
Evaluations from young people described the conference as “interactive, creative, and fun!” The energy and commitment to hope and healing created an inspiring experience for all. YLAT looks forward to the next 30 years (and beyond) of change to Maine’s Child Welfare System.