In June, PFF hosted a free workshop, “Activating the Minds of Critically Conscious Youth” at The Connecticut Center for the Arts and Technology (ConnCAT). As part of the the Foundation’s commitment to strengthening the youth sector through capacity supports for the broader field, the workshop was free and made available to those working within the field of youth development Connecticut. Bringing together 23 youth workers representing 16 different organizations from around the state, the facilitators drew on the breadth of identities and narratives, creating a space for collective exploration and learning.

Critical Consciousness is the ability to recognize and analyze systems of inequality and develop a critical lens to navigate and challenge these systems. While a core component of the way youth organizing is approached, it is a frequently-missing piece in many youth development programs. In youth development, this means centering the lived experiences of youth, youth developing a deeper understanding of their identity and its connection to systems of power and oppression, adults developing relationships with youth as adult allies, and creating spaces for youth to own, validate and express their feelings, thoughts and ideas in their community. This is supporting youth’s meaningful growth, development and success. The workshop’s trainers taught participants activities and debrief exercises that focused on identity and how a working Critical Consciousness lens could be introduced in programs across a wide range of organization structures and program models.

Some reflections on the day from participants were:

“It more than met my expectations – I learned so much and was challenged”

“Knowledge and growth! Today was an incredible learning experience for me. I was able to self reflect and not only understand my peers but also see them as people who have taught me lots.”

“From a facilitator’s standpoint, I really appreciated the space that was created and nurtured through the day.”

What workshops or training opportunities do you think would be valuable to bring to the fields of youth development and/or youth organizing?