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November 29, 2022

YouthBuild Alumni Facilitate Shared Learning Experience, Initiated, Sponsored and Hosted by the Schultz Family Foundation

YouthBuild alumni, YouthBuild USA staff, and the Schultz Family Foundation came together in a dynamic conversation bridging philanthropy and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on opportunity youth. Pictured above, from left to right: Brandon Bridgett (Youth Action YouthBuild, East Harlem, New York), Lauren Austin (YouthBuild Northern Kentucky), Kate Henneberry (YouthBuild USA), Dr. Antoinette Delmonico (YouthBuild USA), Alyssa Mazzarella (YouthBuild USA), Mamar Marshall (CPLC YouthBuild Las Vegas), Nwando Obele (Schultz Family Foundation), and Shauna-Lee Ruglass (YouthBuild USA).

On­­ Monday, November 14, after months of collaboration, YouthBuild alumni, YouthBuild USA staff, and the Schultz Family Foundation participated in a shared learning experience in Seattle, Washington.

YouthBuild Alumni Lauren Austin (YouthBuild of Northern Kentucky), Brandon Bridgett (Youth Action YouthBuild, East Harlem, New York), and Mamar Marshall (CPLC YouthBuild Las Vegas) designed, planned, and facilitated the session. The four-hour, in-person experience was entitled “Compounding Effects: The Impact of COVID-19 on Opportunity Youth.” Its goals were to develop a shared understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on opportunity youth, explore potential approaches to addressing these challenges, and identify actions that could be taken toward more equitable philanthropic practices.

The work began before participants even set foot in the room with preparation that involved watching videos on Design Thinking, looking at data reports on COVID-19’s impact on opportunity youth, and reviewing solutions developed by YouthBuild alumni at the 2021YouthBuild USA AmeriCorps Conference of Young Leaders.

Shared learnings from within the session included: insights into the pervasive negative impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people; discussion about a lack of supportive spaces outside of the home; and unpacking barriers to accessing resources.

The group brainstormed ways that philanthropy might respond to the needs of opportunity youth impacted by the pandemic and long-standing systemic inequities. Participants listened to a panel in which YouthBuild alumni shared their stories and perspectives. Brandon Bridgett, graduate of Youth Action YouthBuild, urged folks to consider the ways the pandemic brought to light the shortcomings of our criminal legal system.

“COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd revealed a new understanding of transformative justice,” said Brandon. “We became energized to reimagine justice systems without the police and focus on our personal autonomy. If safety is cultivated and security is enforced, then how are we cultivating safety in our communities?”

Later, a group discussion encouraged participants to reflect on their own experiences with the pandemic, philanthropy’s current responses to community needs, and ideas for lasting change.

YouthBuild USA is extremely grateful for the Schultz Family Foundation for initiating, sponsoring, and hosting this impactful session. The vision originated with their Chief Learning and Impact Officer, Nwando Obele, who worked alongside YouthBuild’s young leaders to plan, design, and execute it.

“The Schultz Family Foundation gets it and their commitment to young adults was reflected and in practice, as they listened, took notes (our alumni were dropping gems), and built community with young people, ‘proximate leaders,’” said YouthBuild USA Chief People and Culture Officer Shauna-Lee Ruglass.

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