Follow Their Lead offers a window into the movement to end youth homelessness that has been co-created by youth and adults who value, respect, and honor them. Presenters will share their experiences building community and culture as they also designed the statewide Coordinated Community Plan (CCP) to guide a $3.5M federal investment they helped secure. They’ll discuss power, privilege, youth and partner engagement, moving at the pace of trust while meeting funder expectations, humanizing processes that are built to do otherwise, strategies for centering and protecting the community, and the process of transitioning from goal setting to implementation as a community. The values and principles that have enabled the Youth Action Board (YAB) and adult allies to co-create goals and initiatives fueled by and in service of love, joy, and community will be highlighted. This interactive session will also include an introduction to the priorities outlined in the CCP and ways to get involved and will be led by members of the YAB and adult partners.
About The Speakers
Benji Chaplin uses they/them pronouns and is comfortable with any pronoun as long as there is no negative intent. They are from Providence, RI, and are one of the Co-Coordinators for the Youth Action Board (YAB). Their zodiac sign is Pisces. Benji values conversations about issues and experiences that they can expand and learn from. With the work of YAB, they hope to share experiences as well as advocate for the community. They are eager to do more collaborative work with our community and create a safe and better environment in which we all participate. They enjoy music, ridiculous TikTok, and gaming. Benji values YAB’s work that addresses youth homelessness and experiences that are overlooked.
Michelle Duso (she/they) is the founder and CEO of Power4Good, providing services to build, grow and strengthen coalitions and nonprofit organizations, with a focus on social justice, equity, and access. Her work builds community and capacity through strategic planning, organizational development, coaching, and the design and facilitation of collaborative processes, training, and convenings. They hold a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT and a Masters of Social Work from Boston University. Before launching Power4Good in 2007, Michelle spent over a decade leading Youth Pride, Inc., a nonprofit in RI dedicated to meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ youth, and has held myriad positions serving youth and young adults in the child welfare, education, and housing sectors. In 2016, Michelle launched HYPE, a street outreach program responding to the needs of youth experiencing homelessness, and is part of the cross-sector team building a statewide system of care to end homelessness and housing instability among youth and young adults in RI. In addition to serving on the Swearer Center’s Community Advisory Board, Michelle is the board chair for Youth Moving Forward, board advisor for COLAGE, and secretary of the Highlander Institute board. She is a member of the RICoC and its Equity Committee. In their time with friends and family, Michelle enjoys food, running, Tai Chi, belly laughs, hiking, campfires, volleyball, and Netflix marathons. Their favorite things about the YAB are that I get to work beside incredible, inspired, and inspiring young folks and that it’s a community built on love, hope, and solidarity.
Suzan Adekunle is a longtime member of the YAB (Youth Action Board). She uses she/her/hers pronouns. Susan loves to cook, bake, eat, and be creative. Her favorite part about being of the YAB is being able to contribute to the awesome work they have done and the genuine love and support that is a part of this community.
Tatiana Reis (she/her) has been working with youth and young adults for over 10 years in the education and housing sector. She was a college advisor and substitute teacher before becoming the YHDP Systems Lead at the Rhode Island Coalition To End Homelessness. Her work at RICEH includes advising the Youth Action Board, building community partnerships with youth organizations, empowering youth with lived experiences of homelessness, and implementing positive change for youth and young adults in the community. She is a member of the RICOC and its Equity Committee, founder of the #BlackWomentotheFront Educational Series, a community organizer, writer, and current graduate student at Georgia State University in the department of Africana Studies. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Africana Studies with a double minor in Sociology and Justice Studies from Rhode Island College. During her free time, you can catch her taking a nap, reading a book, watching Bob’s Burgers, or listening to Renaissance. My favorite part of the Youth Action Board is being able to work in the community with youth leaders to create sustainable solutions while we all navigate systems created to oppress us. YAB members are leading the work in transformative ways and it is amazing to be a witness to it all.
About the Youth Action Board
The Youth Action Board (YAB) is a space for youth ages 13-24 with lived experience of homelessness or housing instability and their allies to lead the statewide movement to eradicate youth homelessness by 2030. The YAB works with adult allies to co-create activities and initiatives fueled by and in service of love, joy, and community. These values are evident in both the process and outcome of every meeting, convening, and event; in our policy and advocacy work; in our efforts to dismantle harmful practices and build approaches and systems of care; and in the ways we fund and monitor youth-centric housing and service projects. A collaboration between YIA and RI Coalition to End Homelessness, the YAB is a standing committee of the Rhode Island Continuum of Care (RICoC), empowered to design and activate change.
About the Civic Engagement Series
The Swearer Center's Civic Engagement Series brings together students, faculty, staff, and community to learn, reflect, and take action. Each semester, through a series of workshops, presentations, and convenings, participants engage with the multiple strategies communities are using to effect social change around an issue impacting Providence & Rhode Island.