Critically Conscious Youth Development (CCYD) engages young people in identifying, understanding, and taking action to address the ways in which systemic oppression impacts their lives and communities, and PFF’s CCYD cohort builds the capacity of youth workers to support young people in that process. Focused on centering identity, lived experience, and political education as a core competency sessions are run using a “popular education model”, meaning facilitators, participants, and young people all have valuable information that they can share and help one another and entire organizations learn. 


From deep diving into the stories and memories that make up who we are, to analyzing how power, oppression, and are liberation are present in our daily lives, CCYD icebreakers, journal prompts, and program-specific activities are designed with each of those realities in mind.

This past July, the Critically Conscious Youth Development cohort came together for their first retreat. The weekend’s theme was “The Three C’s: Connect, Cultivate, Contextualize” with each “c” corresponding to an important aspect of developing one’s critical consciousness.

“Connect” framed the relationship-building work that facilitators Ja’Dell Davis and Morgan Little led for cohort members and PFF staff team; everyone in the space took part in sharing of themselves, the things that bring them to their work, and their visions and hopes for the next two days.



“Cultivate” represented the development of a critical lens that sees identity as one of the most central pieces of the way of seeing and viewing the work, ourselves, and the roles we play in our work. Additionally, “Cultivate” refers to the ability to analyze inequality from a structural perspective which looks at the larger systems and how they create the oppressive realities we see around us.



And “Contextualize”, as the final theme for the retreat, represented the incorporation of both sharing and understanding one’s experiences, values, and identity that are shared through dialogue as well as a lens that analyzes realities from the perspective of structural inequality and how to bring these components alive in the unique youth work that each organization does.




In September and November the cohort met for full-day intensives, both of which continued using the methods of reflective identity work, while mapping this internal work on to quantitative data. “Self inventories” provided the cohort with an opportunity to understand the varied perspectives, stances, and phases of personal growth and equity analysis that each of them are bringing into the shared learning community.

In addition, each member received a sample lesson plan to critique which was followed by a discussion on the importance of documenting curriculum, planning program sessions, and “breaking the fourth wall” with program participants by reviewing what was learned and some key takeaways from the day.

Lastly, all sessions are closed with an ending practice that provides an opportunity for reflection and collective checking-in with cohort members. The consistent inclusion of “closings” is a formal ending to a program session and shows participants that “endings don’t have to be a bad thing”, in the words of facilitators Ja’Dell Davis and Morgan Little.