"When Under Your Wing Smells Like Armpit"

Shannon Murphy with NYAC co-led a webinar with our Network Steering Committee member Ernesto Dominguez, Youth Technology Specialist at Cascade AIDS Project. The innovative webinar explored definitions, key themes and practical applications of a strong youth/adult partnership model. The aptly-named webinar title  “Building Effective Youth/Adult Partnerships” discussed just that with the idea that an idea of being taken under the wings of adults may not be the best model for youth/adult partnerships (hence “When Under Your Wing Smells Like Armpit”.)

Ladder Model of Young People Involvement: Ernesto presented this model for the levels of how young people are involved and have authority.

Rung 8: Youth and Adults share decision-making (Each party has opportunity to make decisions, and have full contribution rather than adults guiding youth or allowing youth to assist.)

Rung 7: Young people lead and initiate action

Rung 6: Adult-initiated, shared decisions with young people

Rung 5: Young people consulted and informed

Rung 4: Young people are assigned and informed

Rung 3: Young people are tokenized (not actually involved)

Rung 2: Young people are decorations (not actually involved)

Rung 1: Young people are manipulated (not actually involved)

Ways to utilize and empower young people

Event planning, outreach and promotion, peer recruitment and collaborating with other youth and program implementation.

What NOT to do

Bad task decision, making youth “seen and not heard”, tokenism, include only one youth (youth feels isolated and singled out), have week roles defined, talking down to young people

What TO do

Be open, don’t make assumptions, provide meaningful opportunities participation, be honest/realistic about expectations, develop relationships, offer support, make the project fulfilling/interesting, allow youth to speak.

Components of a successful model

  • Clear goals and objectives
  • Shared decisions
  • selective-not everyone is right for every role. Helping youth find their place in the partnership
  • Opportunities for development
  • Different learning and communication styles
  • Shared values

Published by Emilia Dunham, MPP, MBA

Emilia Dunham is currently a Project Manager at MassHealth/Department of Public Health, and formerly the Project Manager of the Life Skills project at The Fenway Institute, an HIV intervention study for young transgender women. Emilia worked at Fenway for 7 years, first as a Quality Control and Regulatory Assistant mainly involved with biomedical HIV prevention trials, before serving as the Program Associate for The Network for LGBT Health Equity, a network instrumental in many national LGBT health policy improvements. She is also involved with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, serving as a Steering Committee member and the Policy Committee Co-Chair, an organization largely responsible for the recent passage of the Trans Rights Bill. Additionally she serves as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, Co-Chair of the Recommendations Committee. Emilia received a Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. There she served as President of the LGBTQ student group where she planned programs such as Pride Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and AIDS Week. In addition, she advocated for LGBTQ inclusive policies and programming on campus such as a Gender Neutral Housing program, an LGBTQ Center and the expansion of Women’s Studies to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Emilia recently earned a Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration in health policy and management from the Brandeis Heller School School for Social Policy and Management.

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