Since 2016, YWCA St. Paul has been providing leadership and advocacy training to the Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet, part of the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) of Minnesota, sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and the Governor’s Office. Late this fall, La’Shante Grigsby, Youth Support Specialist, and Deena Zubulake, Director of Housing & Youth Programs, accompanied several young women from the Young Women’s Cabinet to Washington, D.C., to attend the National Crittenton Foundation’s “In Solidarity We Rise: Healing, Opportunity and Justice for Girls” conference.
The four-day conference focused on understanding the root causes of trauma and discovering new pathways to well-being, exploring diverse and innovative ways to support health, economic security and civic engagement for girls and catalyzing and strengthening the justice reform for girls’ movement.
Attendees from every state in the country learned about programs and policies to improve the lives of young women and girls across the nation, with a focus on inclusive language, trauma-informed practices, gender responsive programming and entrepreneurship. They gained new connections through networking in the nation’s capital where the biggest national policy decisions in the country are made.
To say that the conference provided food for thought would be an understatement. Despite the eight- or nine-hour days attending the conference, the group still spent two to three hours together for dinner and reflection at the end of the day. This was an important opportunity for the girls to discuss and think critically about the events of the day.
“They enjoyed the conference and they also thought critically about the things that they are passionate about that they didn’t see happening or that they were curious about,” Zubulake said. “That was inspirational, to hear that they were thinking through that process of ‘Yes I’m happy to be here but I also realize some girls were left out of the conversations.’”
Grigsby, who was recently selected to participate in the Northstar Fellowship, a professional development experience designed to engage youth work practitioners in the study of issues facing the field in Minnesota, says the conference was a reminder of what’s been accomplished and what’s left to be done.
“Through this conference and through their work on the Cabinet, they understand that we’ve come a long way but there’s still work to be done,” Grigsby said. “It was an exciting opportunity to take young women on that journey so that they could make connections and feel inspired to come back and do some really great work.”