Empowerment and Support in Sitka
The Sitka LeadOn team was made up of members of the Sitka Youth Leadership Committee, or SYLC, whose overall goal for the year was:
Youth will feel empowered and supported by the community to take action against social, environmental, and daily struggles.
SYLC identified three thematic areas to help them move toward that goal: promoting youth voice, challenging harmful norms, and promoting healthy relationships. In order to both promote youth voice and challenge harmful norms, SYLC continued their Postcard Project, an offshoot of the “Share More” Campaign, launched spring of 2019. This project encourages youth to share a little more about their story via social media with the intent to shift the confining and unrealistic narratives often seen and pushed on these channels. This project included a postcard-making session that resulted in the submission of over 50 postcards, the creation of a toolkit in order to engage participants in a more structured workshop, and a virtual workshop that included the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action virtual Earth Day rally and a joint meeting between SYLC and Gájaa Héen Dancers, a youth group under the Sitka Native Education Program.
Under the challenging harmful norms area, SYLC youth started the development of a toolkit to encourage discussion and help audiences more thoroughly break down the concepts highlighted in the “Know Your Privilege, Share Your Power” campaign.
Under the promoting healthy relationships area, SYLC had planned to expand their Peer Education program, already implemented at both high schools and the youth treatment center, Raven’s Way, to Blatchley Middle School. This curriculum focuses mainly on unhealthy dating relationships while also applying the same concepts to unhealthy family relationships and friendships. While the expansion wasn’t possible because of the pandemic, SYLC edited and rewrote its curriculum to be more relatable for a younger audience. This curriculum includes affirmative consent and state consent laws, red flags of unhealthy and abusive relationships, how to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, how to prevent unhealthy relationships, the role of power and control in abusive relationships, the cycle of abuse, and personal rights and responsibilities in a relationship. Additionally, the curriculum also includes strategies on how to be an ally and offer support to victims of dating violence. SYLC also offered virtual training for adults on adult allyship and helped adults to become more knowledgeable and comfortable delivering healthy relationship information to youth. Lastly, SYLC continued the “Healthy Me, Healthy We” campaign during TDVAM on Facebook and with posters around all three high schools as well as morning announcements at Mt. Edgecumbe and Sitka High.
The SYLC team is doing innovative work to support and empower teens in Sitka. Follow them on Facebook for more!