Crisis and community: Youth embrace their role as community leaders during COVID-19

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Everyone’s lives have dramatically changed in the last four weeks. To curb the spread of the virus, many of us are working from home, students across the country are e-learning, and our cultural institutions, restaurants, and beloved national parks are closed. One thing that remains constant during this time is YouthRoots’ commitment to empowering and growing the next generation of leaders. 

Like many organizations, we’ve had to respond to these unprecedented times with creativity and innovation. In mid-March, YouthRoots staff and facilitators worked tirelessly to move all of our programming online. In a “normal” program year, students would be finishing their fundraising, reviewing grant applications, and choosing how they will grant their funds. 

All of this is still happening, just in new ways. Facilitators are meeting students where they are with activities and discussions on resilience and coping skills, giving students an outlet to express their anxieties, fears, frustrations, and sadness in the midst of new routines. And our students are finishing the year strong – meeting with potential donors via phone or video, virtually reviewing grant applications, and using online voting and discussion to determine this year’s grant winners.  

Through the YouthRoots grantmaking process students respond to emerging community needs, and these funds are more important than ever in the face of this crisis. This year, participants from 11 YouthBoards have raised nearly $50,000 for local organizations. This money will be critical for organizations serving vulnerable youth populations – or even just trying to keep their doors open. YouthRoots staff has also encouraged participants to help in other ways: give blood, assist elderly relatives, or volunteer if they can. Our participants are taking their roles as emerging community leaders very seriously and are proud to be assisting their communities during this time.

In the last month, YouthRoots participants have learned that difficult situations require innovative solutions. During this time of turmoil, YouthRoots is giving participants an outlet to give back to their communities in a real, meaningful way. Teens (and everyone else!) don’t have to meet face-to-face or even leave their homes to make a difference. YouthRoots is teaching the next generation of leaders that stepping up to help, even in small ways, is the best chance we have to get through crises together.

Click here for more info on the YouthRoots response to COVID-19.

Alyssa HornyakCrisis and community: Youth embrace their role as community leaders during COVID-19