At Youth Solutions, we recognize that creating an inclusive and welcoming environment is essential to empowering our young people. Coffee with a Purpose (CWAP) was created over three years ago to broadcast virtual conversations with Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) youth from across the state, offering a platform to explore a range of meaningful topics, crucial to the success of their future. This year, we held our first in-person 3-part series addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and what it means to the youth in our communities across Michigan. Over the course of nine months, we held live sessions at the Bridge Academy of Southwest Michigan in Benton Harbor, Marquette-Alger Technical Middle College in the Upper Peninsula, and finally at Pershing High School in Detroit.
Our youth panelists shared diverse experiences, from navigating an alternative high school environment to discovering how Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations in high school can reshape life trajectories. They also emphasized the transformative power of active listening and support in nurturing a sense of belonging. A key takeaway we hope everyone grasped is that DEI can manifest uniquely, not just from one city to another within our state, but also from one JMG youth to another.
We consider ourselves fortunate to work with not only some of the most success-driven youth within our programs, but also some of the most talented individuals in our statewide network, serving as JMG specialists or supporters of our life-changing initiatives. We are forever grateful to our co-moderators Julie Earle, Terri Albers, Chris Canchola, Harger Boal, McKea Cooper-Miller and L’Tonya Braceful Felder for the time and energy they put into helping our courageous youth speak their truths and share their stories.
We look forward to continuing these dialogues, expanding our reach, and working together to create a more inclusive and equitable Michigan for all, with these remarkable young people at the forefront of change.
If you missed any of these impactful conversations, the recordings that can be found on our website.