When: In October of 2015, I came home from school and my Dad had on 10 NBC who was doing an investigation about homeless youth in Philadelphia. It was an hour long, and in that hour my eyes were opened more than ever before about an issue no one really seems to be talking about. Youth homelessness.
It was after that day when I knew that I wanted my capstone to center on youth homelessness, and I knew exactly how I planned to do it.
How: Since my junior year, I have been an active member of the Philadelphia Youth Commission. The Youth Commission has 21 members of youth who are elected to represent their respective City Council district and Councilperson, or the Mayor. We hold monthly meetings on topics that affect youth, volunteer at youth related events, and partner with other youth organizations in the city. The Commission has 4 committees: Public Safety, Education, Jobs & Economics, and Health & Recreation. Every month, a different committee is responsible for hosting our monthly meeting that is relative to their area of focus. Some of the problems are that not enough people come to our meetings, the location doesn’t move around, and we never have a real call to action when we’re done. So for my capstone, I’d have a two-fold mission: host a meeting with the Youth Commission like never before — different location, bigger audience, provide refreshments for the first time, and have a legitimate ‘call to action’– but also have an impactful conversation about Youth Homelessness with a real solution by the end.
Planning: The planning process began in January. I asked the Director of the Youth Commission, Ricardo, to be my mentor for my capstone. A minor setback I had was the new Mayoral transition happening in City Hall. This halted the process of having a location to plan the meeting in. Our normal meetings were across the street in the Municipal Services Building, but I knew I wanted this one to be in City Hall because majority of youth in the city have never stepped foot in city hall even though it’s the public’s building.
After a few months, things began settling down in City Hall and the Health and Recreation committee had their first planning meeting. We created a layout for the meeting, possible speakers, potential snacking food, and everyone left with assigned tasks to be completed by the end of the week. Emails were being drafted, we were on a roll.
Public Hearing: On April 28th, there coincidentally was a public hearing happening in City Council Chambers to address Youth Homelessness. I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about the issue first hand, network with people who work with at-risk youth, recruit meeting attendees, and just a great learning space to be in. This was my first time attending a public hearing ever, so I wasn’t expecting much. I thought the room would be half filled at best and that it would be extremely formal. MAN was I wrong! The line just to get into City Hall spoke for itself. People who were total strangers to one another were all there with a common interest. The room was completely packed and I heard testimony after testimony from youth who had gone through lives none of us could ever imagine.