Power of Place Digital Learning Series 2021

Power of Place 2021 Digital Learning Series

The Power of Place series focused on structural racism in the systems that touch opportunity youth (OY) and the interventions that best support youth and young adults to achieve their goals, including programs and systems that advance meaning-making, foster belonging, purpose and well-being, and deepen healing practices. The agenda for the series is grounded in Arnold Chandler’s life course and structural racism frameworks, and his emerging research promoting meaning-making interventions as a method to undo structural racism. Chandler is a long time partner in the work of the Opportunity Youth Forum, and his work underlies the year’s worth of learning events in this series, which underlie a new body of work in OYF to create pathways and systems serving OY that value and support BIPOC youth identity, success and well-being.

This learning series builds on two key concepts:

  • Structural Racism: A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity.
  • Meaning-Making Interventions: unlike those focused on improving “skills,” meaning-making interventions are focused on improving the identity-related meaning that youth and children apply to both themselves and the challenging contexts in which they strive to succeed (like schools).

The Power of Place videos explore these concepts in the context of the key systems that touch opportunity youth, including: K12 re-engagement, postsecondary, and workforce, as well as the other related ‘service’ systems (housing, health, justice, and more) that impact the lives of young adults. The series does this with a place-based lens, while lifting up strategies, practices, and tools from across the Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) network and partners.

This learning series seeks to:

  • Frame the tackling of structural racism and related barriers as a foundational strategy that communities are using to improve outcomes for OY;
  • Explore in an intentional way the role of the systems that touch the lives of OY – secondary, postsecondary, workforce – along with other intersecting systems including juvenile justice, social and mental health services, etc.;
  • Hold a focus on specific individual systems while asking communities to hold an ecosystem frame, even as they think about unique strategies to improve specific systems;
  • Look at program-level outcomes in tandem with system change efforts;
  • Understand the historical policies that lead to the inequities that young people face, grounded in data, narrative, and centering the voices of youth.

Session 1: Advancing a Commitment to Address Structural Racism, May 27, 2021 

Structural Racism, Place and Life Course Outcomes: A Concrete Primer

Link to Resources: Dropbox
Watch The Video Archive: Only Available for Registrants

Summary: This session will present a coherent framework for understanding structural racism using the Life Course Framework as a foundation. It will describe what makes racism “structural” and the core mechanisms by which structural racism leads to unfair disparities in life outcomes within and across generations. It will also explain how “place” became the linchpin of structural racism through the deliberate construction of racially segregated neighborhoods by policymakers and private actors. Lastly, it will offer a case study from Los Angeles county that illustrates how structural racism produces stark disparities in life outcomes along racial lines.

Speaker: Arnold Chandler, President, Forward Change Consulting

Plenary: The Buffalo Story

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube 
Summary: Advancing a community-wide commitment to structural racism requires buy-in from a range of community-based actors, including leaders from the private sector, education, and philanthropy. The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo launched the Racial Equity Roundtable, a coalition of more than 30 community leaders from public, private, nonprofits and faith institutions aimed at advancing racial equity and promoting the change required to accelerate shared regional prosperity. This plenary panel will tell the story of how the Community Foundation identified structural racism as a community priority and built public will and buy-in across sectors and systems to center a commitment to addressing structural racism in community improvement efforts, including expanding employment opportunities for opportunity youth. This plenary panel will feature a range of community leader perspectives – including youth voice – aimed at improving outcomes for vulnerable youth and young adults in Buffalo.

Opening Remarks:
Dr. Gail Christopher, Former Vice President, WK Kellogg Foundation

Plenary Speakers:
Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, President & CEO, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
Felicia Beard, Senior Director, Racial Equity Initiatives, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
Tim Hogues, Commissioner for Personnel for Erie County, NY
Malik Stubbs, Youth Leader, Breaking Barriers
Monique Miles, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions (moderator)

Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable: Creating Conditions for Systems Change 

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube Video 

Summary: In Buffalo, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo launched the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, a coalition of more than 30 community leaders from public, private, nonprofits and faith institutions convened to advance racial equity and promote the change required to accelerate a shared regional prosperity. This session, building on the earlier panel discussion, provided  a deeper dive into the story of this effort and its agenda for creating conditions that support systems change. This conversation with Buffalo community leaders and partners covered a range of themes, including how a commitment to addressing structural racism was identified as a core objective in the community, the structure of the Racial Equity Roundtable and key partners (more than 300!), learnings, progress to-date, and vision for the evolution of the work.

Speakers: Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
Felicia Beard, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
Tim Hogues, Erie County, NY 
Malik Stubbs, Breaking Barriers

Pursuing Equity in Data Use 

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube Video

Summary: Using data to improve outcomes for opportunity youth means understanding all opportunity youth. Applying an equity lens to your data strategy is essential to understanding all the sub-groups of opportunity youth, and to designing effective strategies to address their unique needs. However, pursuing equity in your data strategy can be challenging because of the biases built into existing data systems and how they are connected, thus, interpretation, target setting, and planning must be done with explicit attention to potential bias. In this workshop, participants were  guided through the steps to take and questions to ask to reduce bias and to advance their data strategy through an equity lens.

Speakers: Kayla Brooks, Standpoint Consulting
Dr. Adriane Johnson-Williams, Standpoint Consulting

Collective Impact: Centering Equity (concurrent session)

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube Video

Summary: In order to truly solve complex social issues, structural inequality along race, class and culture lines needs to be tackled head-on. For this reason, the systems focus of collective impact work provides a significant opportunity to advance equity in communities. This session seeks to help organizations think through how to promote equity and inclusion through their collective impact work. Learn about the key building blocks for equity-focused work and hear how other practitioners have built an equity and inclusion lens into their efforts. Participants also had a chance to engage with peers to discuss practical ways to infuse equity into their own efforts.

Speaker: Junious Williams, Junious Williams Consulting, Inc.

Session 2: Addressing Structural Racism in the Secondary Education and Reengagement System – June 30th, 2021

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube

Summary: This session focused on the impacts of structural racism in the context of the secondary education and re-engagement systems and highlighted solutions and interventions that communities and reengagement practitioners are implementing in response to the disproportionate impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on educational outcomes of opportunity youth, particularly students of color, as well as long-term system change efforts to address inequities these systems. 

Goals for the session included:

  • Highlight impacts of structural racism in the context of the secondary education and re-engagement system, as well as interventions aligned with Arnold Chandler’s framework
  • Highlight the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on secondary education and reengagement systems
  • Highlight strategies that communities are implementing in the immediate response to Covid-19, as well as long-term system change efforts to address inequities and improve outcomes for opportunity youth

Specific interventions discussed in this session included:

  • Pathways Interventions: YouthBuild. Robert Clark, Executive Director of YouthBuild Newark and Scott Emerick, Executive Director of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School discussed the YouthBuild model and approach to youth leadership development, community service, and civic engagement. The conversation lifted up how these two leaders have committed to an organizational focus on race, identity, and community activism, while building meaning-making practices to support participants in developing a sense of belonging and purpose.
  • In-School Interventions: Alayna Shaw, Senior AmeriCorps Project Manager and Mary Zanotti, Executive Director of Colorado Youth For a Change, discussed ways in which the organization is addressing racial equity within their re-engagement programs and internally. The conversation explored addressing white saviorism, white cultural norms vs. transformational cultural norms and the school to prison pipeline. Additionally, CYC discussed the ways in which the organization plans to move forward in its racial equity work (i.e. student voice, anti-oppression framework, and recruiting staff that reflects the identities of the students they serve). 
  • Pathways Interventions: The Maya Angelou Schools.  Katia Jones, Director of Postsecondary Transitions, and Kamal Wright-Cunningham, Managing Director of Maya Angelou Schools & See Forever Foundation focused on integration of SEL-programming and post-secondary preparation to best prepare opportunity youth who have experienced a myriad of complex traumas. These leaders discussed how these strategies are implemented across their network of schools which include an alternative high school, young adult GED and vocational program and secure detention facility.  Additionally, the team shared how they have enhanced their holistic approach to supporting the scholar, family, and community in light of the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Youth-Led Systems Change Interventions: South King County Latinx Reengagement Project. Maria Guizar and Maria Gonzalez of the King County, Department of Community and Human Services and Max Meshnick from Community Center for Education Results shared the Latinx Youth Reengagement Project Report, which presented qualitative analysis from interviews with Latinx young people (ages 16-24) who have left both traditional high school and the re-engagement system, and recommendations on what “we” could do better to help them stay engaged in school, gain a secondary credential and go to college. Quantitative data for the Latinx project was used to formulate desired outcomes and explain how improvements were made to close the disproportionality gap. These leaders discussed how centering student/youth voice was key to the project, as well as lessons learned from Latinx Project awardees regarding implementation successes and challenges.

Session 3: Addressing Structural Racism in the Postsecondary System – August 26, 2021

Summary: The session focused on the impact of structural racism in the context of postsecondary education, and highlighted solutions and interventions that communities, students, and postsecondary institutions are implementing to improve institutional outcomes and outcomes of students color and other traditionally underserved populations, while fostering belonging and meaning-making for students.

Goals for the session included:

  • Feature postsecondary efforts that reinforce anti-racism practices and improve outcomes for students of color and other traditionally underserved populations.
  • Tell stories of change across the OYF network and partners, in the context of postsecondary system/institutional change and programs that work in supporting postsecondary success of students of color.
  • Feature the work in Boston at several levels – community-wide commitment to improving systems, policies, and programming (with a focus on programming that centers identity, belonging, and meaning-making for Black and Latinx male students).
  • Feature the work of Amarillo College and the leadership of Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart aimed at improving postsecondary outcomes for all students with a commitment to equity.
  • Uplift the role of student voice in community college system change.

Session Introduction and Boston Story: Success Boston 

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube

Summary: This session provided a comprehensive overview of the Success Boston initiative, a citywide college completion initiative that was launched in 2008 by The Boston Foundation, Boston Public Schools (BPS), the City of Boston, 37 area institutions of higher education led by UMass Boston and Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), and area nonprofits with the goal of doubling the college completion rate for students from BPS.

Success Boston leaders will share the history and structure of initiative, including the coaching and supports model, the role of core partners, data-sharing strategies, and how they are using data to understand the impact on student outcomes, particularly the outcomes of young men of color. Leaders from BHCC helped the audience situate the role of Success Boston in the context of community college vision, leadership, and impact, including the partners’ commitment to take bold steps to achieve racial equity and how BHCC is redesigning systems and practices to better support young men of color on campus – including the role that young men of color on campus, in partnership with male faculty of color, are playing in informing this redesign.

Speakers: Annabelle Cataloni, Postsecondary Success Manager, Boston Private Industry Council
Dr. Nuri Chandler-Smith, Dean of Academic Support and College Pathways, Bunker Hill Community College
Dr. Pam Eddinger, President, Bunker Hill Community College
Marsha Inniss-Mitchell, Director of Postsecondary Initiatives and Partnerships, Boston Public Schools
Antoniya Marinova, Assistant Director, Education to Career, The Boston Foundation
Joe McLaughlin, Director of Research and Evaluation, Boston Private Industry Council
Karina Nova, Success Boston Alumna
Elizabeth Pauley, Associate Vice President, Education to Career, The Boston Foundation

Moderated Discussion with Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart on Structural Love

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube 

Summary: In this moderated discussion, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, President of Amarillo College – named 2021 Top Five Institution and Rising Star for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence – share his vision for improving student success by fostering an institutional commitment to “structural love” and driving institutional and system-level changes which, at their core, focus on loving every student. Dr. Lowery-Hart shared how he communicated and advanced this vision to invest in all students so that students can feel that they meaningfully belong and that their identities and cultures are affirmed by the institution, his approach to engaging multiple stakeholders (including board, faculty, administrators, and students), and the through-line from loving every student to advancing racial equity in place at the Amarillo College.

Speakers: Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, President, Amarillo College
Monique Miles, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions (Moderator)

Student Voice, Leadership, and Activism to Advance Equity in Postsecondary Education

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube

Summary: This session presented two models of student engagement, leadership, and activism in the effort to drive system, policy, and practice change at community colleges in California and Boston. Students Making Change (SMAC) Fellows discussed how SMAC – a student-led program that works to create transformative leadership opportunities for community college students in educational policy advocacy, innovative community engagement, and organizing – engages administrators, faculty, staff, trustees, and elected official to advocate for equity and justice at the City College of San Francisco and beyond.

At Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), the Halting Oppressive Pathways through Education (HOPE) Initiative works to examine and eliminate the social, institutional, and academic barriers that often prevent male students of color from achieving their full potential. The HOPE Initiative, a partnership between students, faculty, staff, and administrators, aims to transform inequitable systems and structures so that Black and Latino male students can thrive, by focusing on research and analysis, gaps in BHCC programs and services, and mentoring. SMAC and HOPE present models of student-centered leadership and youth-adult partnerships that center student voice in the work of transforming policy and practice at community colleges with a goal of creating institutions where students of color can feel meaningful belonging and thrive.

Speakers: Trillia Hargrove, SMAC Fellow, City College of San Francisco
Rodrigo “Rico” Velazquez Angel, SMAC Fellow, City College of San Francisco
William Cook Fernandez, HOPE Ambassador, Bunker Hill Community College
Evans Erilus, The HOPE Initiative, Bunker Hill Community College
David Medina, HOPE Ambassador, Bunker Hill Community College
Yelena Nemoy, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions (Moderator)

Session 4: Addressing Structural Racism in the Workforce and Economy – September 29, 2021

Summary: The session focused on the impact of structural racism in the world of work. The event highlighted solutions and interventions that workforce systems, communities, young people, employers and training providers are implementing to improve career outcomes for students of color and foster meaning, purpose and belonging among young workers.

Session goals include:

  • Highlight the practices of workforce systems in the OYF network and elsewhere that advance racial equity
  • Feature stories from the OYF network on how to advance employer practices that promote belonging and job quality for young people of color, and connect these to the current opportunity in the business community for advancing a racial equity agenda. 
  • Tell stories of innovation that connect career development with other systems and sectors including mental health and community safety and public benefit

Session Introduction and Opening Plenaries:

Watch The Video Archive: YouTube

Racial Equity in the Workforce System

Dr. Michelle Wilson of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and Dr. Abbie Langston of PolicyLink will share learnings from the “Advancing Workforce Equity” projects, where their organizations worked with five regional workforce systems to create comprehensive analysis of long-standing racial gaps in the labor market and develop local blueprints for action. This session will highlight the importance of articulating your “why”, uncovering the drivers of inequity, and understanding the “who” in your work using disaggregated data and stories. In addition, participants will hear from Andrea Glispie of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, to unpack Dallas’s equity journey as a National Fund Workforce Collaborative.

Speakers: Andrea Glispie, Senior Director, Career Pathway, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
Jerry Hawkins Executive Director of Dallas, Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation
Dr. Abbie Langston, Senior Project Associate, PolicyLink
Dr. Michelle Wilson, Director of Evaluation and Learning, National Fund
Mike Swigert, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions (Moderator)

Racial Equity on the Job

The swelling of support for racial justice since 2020 has seen businesses make public commitments to embrace a racial equity agenda. How can the opportunity youth field and collaboratives connect with local and national efforts to take advantage of this moment and advance employer practice change to create conditions where BIPOC young people persist, advance, and thrive?

Speakers: Cox, CEO, iFoster
Kelley-Francess Freson, Senior Manager, Programs and Engagement, JUST Capital
Keira Green and Tyree Crawford, iFoster participants
Kimberly Pham, Engagement Coordinator, Opportunity Youth United
Melissa Stirling, Hilton Worldwide
Mike Swigert, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions (moderator)

Job Quality, Equity and Belonging – Training Provider Levers for Employer Practice Change

Watch The Video: YouTube  

Summary: Throughout the first phase of the GenerationWork initiative supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) worked with communities to document effective practices to advance employer practice changes leading to job quality, which is inherently related to racial equity. Drawing on their recently released typology, this session highlights strategies that youth workforce training providers and intermediaries can use to influence employer partners to shift their culture and business practices so that BIPOC workers, including opportunity youth, feel more included, are more successful and experience higher job quality.

Speakers: Amy Blair, Research Director, Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (EOP)
Sam DeCarlo, Director of Workforce Development, Our Piece of the Pie (OPP)

Mobile Response – Envisioning Future Career Pathways in Mental Health at a Time of Transformation

Watch The Video: YouTube 

Summary: Unmet mental health needs amongst youth are acute. However, there is a shortage of MH professionals to meet the service needs for all populations. a. Currently, many mental health professions require extensive postsecondary education and credentialing. What if there was a way to mitigate the shortage of mental health professionals, accessibility, and unmet mental health needs of youth? 

This session highlights one model of mental health support, mobile response as an avenue to create pathways to Mental Health professions for Opportunity Youth. Mobile Response is a 24/7 service that provides a rapid response for individuals and families experiencing crises, traumatic events, or heightened emotional symptoms that have inhibited their ability to function or cope. What opportunities are there to envision new pathways to family-sustaining careers in crisis response, mental health, safety and wellness that leverage the lived experience of opportunity youth and communities through shorter-term, culturally relevant professional training as an alternative to traditional clinical models? 

Speakers: Whitney Bunts, Policy Analyst, CLASP
Tim Black, Director of Consulting,  White Bird Clinic

Guaranteed Income and Economic Mobility – Emerging Lessons from Foster Youth Pilots in California

Watch The Video: YouTube

Summary: Guaranteed income has emerged as an innovative policy lever to advance economic security for all. This session explored the growing Basic Income movement and how it intersects with youth financial capability. In Santa Clara and San Francisco, MyPath is leading Guaranteed Income pilots supporting young people transitioning out of foster care and young parenting mothers, integrated with their financial mentoring program. 

Early results are promising, as is public commitment to the approach in California, where the legislature just passed a bill to expand the pilot statewide. This model of having stable income paired with financial mentoring can also be replicated in the workforce development field. In this session, MyPath unpacked these pilots and connect them to the youth-led Economic Bill of RYTS (Real Youth Troubles & Solutions), a policy platform created by young leaders from their programs.

Speakers: Fahad Qurashi, Senior Director of Strategy, MyPath
Amadeos Oygata, Policy Associate, MyPath


Session 5: Reframing Environmental Justice with a Racial Justice Lens – December 15, 2021

Summary: The last session in the 2021 Power of Place series will focus on reframing environmental justice and increasing equitable access to the natural environment with a racial justice lens. The session will bring together leaders in the environmental justice movement – including young adult leaders, grassroots and community-based organizations, philanthropy, and representatives from federal and local governments – who will help us build our collective understanding of the healing power of nature, especially for Black and Indigenous people and communities of color. We will hear from different voices in the field who will share practical examples of community-focused efforts and policy solutions at the intersection of nature and healing, protecting outdoor spaces, environmental justice, and racial justice. We appreciate the expertise and assistance of Children & Nature Network with this session! Session goals include:

  • Build understanding of the healing power of nature especially for Black and Indigenous people and communities of color in the context of Arnold Chandler’s research on structural racism
  • Feature different voices and practical examples (models, approaches and initiatives) that intersect nature, environmental justice and racial justice
  • Address and reframe biases around white-dominant conservationist spaces and tropes to center Indigenous people and communities of color, especially as it relates to environmental justice and protecting outdoor spaces
  • Grow awareness of policies and paths for advocating for policies related to securing resources for prioritizing environmental justice and healing in the outdoors
You can watch the full session via The Aspen Institute’s Youtube channel or please find individual session links below.

Arts Opening & Land Acknowledgement Intro

Watch The Video: Youtube

Speakers: Francis Mendoza, Children & Nature Network
Monica Lopez Magee, Children & Nature Network

Framing of Session & Keynote Address

Watch The Video: Youtube

Keynote Address

Monique Miles, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions
Dr. Carolyn Finney – Storyteller, Author and Cultural Geographer

Benefits of Nature Wheel Overview and Small Group Discussions

Watch The Video: Youtube

Monica Lopez Magee – Children & Nature Network

Solutions from the Field Panel Discussion

Watch The Video: Youtube
Julie Garreau – Cheyenne River Youth Project
Abiodun Henderson – Founder, Gangstas to Growers
Monica Lopez Magee – Children & Nature Network
Yelena Nemoy – Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions
Sheridan Ray – CCCN
Gaby Benitez – CCCN

Reframing Tropes Small Group Discussion

Watch The Video: Youtube

Francis Mendoza, Children & Nature Network

Philanthropy & Policy Panel

Watch The Video: Youtube

Niobli Armah IV,  My Brother’s Keeper Alliance
Jose G. Gonzalez,  Founder & Director Emeritus of Latino Outdoors
Dawn Knickerbocker (Anishinaabe, White Earth Nation),  Native Americans in Philanthropy
Juan D. Martinez Pineda (Be’ena’ Za, Zapoteca),  Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions

Closing: Love Note 

Watch The Video: Youtube

Jamiel Alexander,  Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions