Voices, Young or Old Are Meant to Be Heard


As a business coach I am inspired by the accomplishments made by my client-partners but also by folks in the communities around me. Several years ago I had the honor of being introduced to an amazing group of folks, Young Voices. While I was inspired by the vision and passion put forth by the founders Karen Feldman and Chace Baptista, I was blown away by the amazing impact that the youth of this group has had on education in Rhode Island. I’d be remiss not to mention that I have immense admiration for these young folks as well, as much for whom they are as for what they do.

Their story is an inspiration to me and they have graciously provided me a glimpse into who they are and what they have become and are yet to be. It is my pleasure to share this story with you. It is my hope that you will be inspired as I am and that you too will not only recognize the potential of our youth but that you will be reminded of the possibility in each of us.

"In 2006, Karen Feldman, then the Executive Director for Youth In Action (YIA), recognized the desperate need for authentic youth voice in policy-making in RI. In response, Karen and Chace Baptista, a YIA member, founded Young Voices. During its first year, with an operating budget of only $90,000, Young Voices prepared 40 Providence youth to work with powerful adults and shape statewide policies through trainings in advanced research, public speaking, networking, critical thinking, and debating skills in the Leadership Transformation Academy (LTA). Five years later, Young Voices now has an operating budget of $223,000, 3 full-time staff, and serves over 120 low-income, minority youth statewide.

Critically, Young Voices’ exponential growth can be measured not only in numbers, but by the impact the non-profit organization has on improving the quality of education in RI for youth. Successes include pushing for an equitable state funding formula, effective teacher evaluations, and teacher certification that is connected to classroom performance. Young Voices also focuses on ensuring youth have real input into the redesign of turnaround schools by offering the LTA at two turnaround high schools, working to improve school culture, graduation rates, and test scores.

Since 2006, hundreds of Young Voices’ youth have successfully influenced policy-making in RI and caused systemic change, while gaining advanced, transferable leadership skills. Young Voices’ youth are empowered to do well in school, get into college, lead successful lives, and contribute to the well-being of their community. In 2012, Young Voices continues to grow with plans to expand to three additional RI turnaround schools, and share its youth empowerment model nationally."

Whether you are a parent or youth, an educator or simply one who cares about the future of our youth and the importance of education I encourage you to reach out to Young Voices for inspiration and opportunity. To my friend Karen Feldman, there are not words enough to express my belief in all you do- to the young folks that make Young Voices tick, I am honored to live in a world you will inherit.

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