Partner Spotlight: Youth Be Heard

When did your organization launch and why?

The inspiration to start Youth Be Heard (YBH) came in 2018 after the founder led a Strengths-Based Writing Program in an underserved public high school. She developed the program as a creative intervention to the increasing mental health needs among youth. Students wrote about challenges they’ve overcome while discovering their strengths and gaining self-insight. As the group concluded, it was clear that the students’ work was too good to stay hidden in their notebooks. But, they lacked access to editing and the confidence to take it to the next level. This struck a personal chord with the founder when she realized the lack of confidence she felt as a young person held her back from finding and sharing her voice for decades. She wondered, “How many of us were told that our ideas and opinions didn’t count when we were young and replay that message in our minds for a lifetime? How many world-changing ideas and brilliant solutions have been held back because of this?”

Further, youth voices are typically not integrated into society’s narrative, and even fewer voices are represented by youth with socioeconomic barriers.

Youth Be Heard was born out of these needs.

What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

YBH is an online publication and community for youth writing and art with a vision for all youth to believe in their own value and potential. Our goal is to cultivate the self-esteem and confidence of today’s youth, so they can create a seat for themselves at the table of ideas to solve tomorrow’s problems.

YBH’s initiatives:

  • Publishing: We elevate youth experience, opinions, and creativity through publication on our website and social media pages. We provide editing and guidance to all youth submissions, and if YBH is not the right match, we provide outside publication opportunities.
  • POETS, BE HEARD: We host youth poetry events designed to be non-judgmental spaces to share work and gain inspiration.
  • Strengths-Based Writing Program: Designed for a small group of 6-12 students, youth gain self-insight, discover their strengths and grow in the knowledge of writing and publishing over 6-8 weeks.
  • Youth Advisory Board: We create opportunities for youth-led initiatives through our incredible youth advisory board. They have been integral to all steps of creating YBH, leading POETS, BE HEARD, and coming up with new ideas that we are currently working on, including a podcast and YouTube channel.

What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

Through an innovative approach, YBH implements research-based programs based on theories principles from the fields of positive youth development and media literacy and find that the ability to express oneself has an impact on confidence and self-esteem levels. By helping those with high barriers to express themselves, we are helping to cultivate marginalized voices by encouraging youth to be creators of media and to think critically about the media they consume. We are where media literacy, social work, and the arts overlap.

YBH doesn’t tell youth what to think, rather they hold space for them to process how to think. As such, all opinions expressed represent views of the individual author or artist, rather than of the organization. YBH aims to uplift a multitude of perspectives so we can see other points of view, disrupt echo chambers, and burst filter bubbles.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

See the impact of YBH so far on the website.

Support youth by following YBH on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to the monthly email, which shares the most recent publications.

What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

YBH gives youth an opportunity to create media responsibly, and in doing so, facilitates critical thinkers in relation to media consumption. Knowing the piece will be published turns the learning into reality and is a key step in the experiential learning cycle. YBH provides real-life media creation opportunities that can support media literacy coursework.

70% of youth who worked and published with YBH said that creating their own content helped them understand how other media is created and published.

Further, the majority of respondents said viewing content on YBH increased their empathy for someone with a different background.

Why is media literacy important to your organization?

Media literacy is an intervention that can help youth gain resilience against harmful media messages. When adolescents are experiencing increasing levels of mental health issues, media literacy can help youth gain power over harmful media messages that objectify, sexualize, sensationalize, and distort our shared human existence.

The views and opinions expressed in the Organizational Spotlight blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the Organizational Spotlight blog is to highlight our Organizational Partners and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.