On August 11, 2017 Banyan Global hosted a panel discussion titled Employing Youth Now to Prevent Conflict Later in Washington, DC to celebrate International Youth Day. The theme of International Youth Day 2017 was Youth Building Peace. To address this theme, the event addressed the intrinsic link between youth employment, especially for at-risk youth, and conflict prevention and mitigation.
Panelists included representatives and youth from local organizations to help make connections between workforce development programs in the United States and international programs, including the Empleando Futuros project implemented by Banyan Global in Honduras. Maurice Cook, Founder and Executive Director of Serve Your City, was accompanied by Nura Awad, a student participant in several Serve Your City programs. They were joined by Lori Kaplan, President and CEO of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), along with Paola Mendoza and Wendy Elizabeth Benitez Duran, members of LAYC’s Latino Student Leadership Council. Louis (Louie) Alexander, Banyan Global’s Principal Associate for Youth Practice, served as moderator.
Participants learned more about each organization’s work and how the organizations share much in common with international youth programs. For example, Serve Your City and LAYC both reach out to at-risk youth, just as Empleando Futuros does; and like many international programs, both organizations must navigate limited funding environments, and challenges related to monitoring, evaluation and learning.
Perhaps the most impactful portion of the discussion, however, was when the youth participants shared their personal thoughts and aspirations. Nura touched on the difficulty of engaging at-risk youth in programs when they do not have family support, and Paola suggested that youth programs focus on reaching out to youth one-on-one to enhance youth engagement. To close the program, Wendy shared a moving story of overcoming emotional health issues and the absence of “belonging” somewhere in order to become a part of LAYC’s Latino Student Leadership Council, reminding the audience that leadership has no age and that “todos somos la luz” (we [youth] are all the light).