Police, Protest, Practice: Youth invited to apply for social justice program

Louisiana teens, ages 11-17, are invited to apply to participate in “My Voice Matters – Speak Out About Social Justice,” a year-long, statewide initiative to engage youths in the ongoing conversations about social justice and racial equality. The deadline to apply is Sept. 30.

The Young Leaders Academy of Baton Rouge is one of only eight organizations in the nation chosen to present the program, which is hosted by CLEO Legally Inspired College Ko-horts of Students (CLICKS). The initiative will begin in October and continue through September 2021. The program features a series of virtual town halls with student leaders from across the United States in an interactive discussion of contemporary social issues affecting young people today.

“Today’s youth have an unparalleled opportunity to lead us all in the dismantling of the social injustices and inequalities that have plagued our nation for generations, and we are honored to be selected to present the ‘My Voice Matters’ program,” said Tonya Robertson, executive director of the YLA of Baton Rouge. “This program represents an opportunity for our young people to learn how to speak up and speak out about these issues.”

The series centers on three themes: Police: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow; Protest: Your First Amendment Right; and Practice: Youth-Led Community Projects. In the weeks following the virtual town halls, CLICKS participants will be paired with adult volunteers and mentors to continue and deepen the conversations about these themes. Upon completion of the program, participants will choose and complete their own project. Participants will enjoy mentorships, virtual and hybrid skills development workshops, summer leadership and career exploration activities, and quarterly outings to law schools, courthouses, and collegiate and professional sports facilities, among others.

“Our goal is to teach young people that their voices do matter, and more importantly, that their voices can bring change, and we are excited to bring this education to young people across Louisiana in the coming weeks and months,” she added. “We are grateful for our partners, Southern University Law Center, and Louisiana Healthcare Connections, for helping us to make this possible.”

“Through our Legal Exposure program, we have assembled some of the best and brightest legal minds from the Southern University Law Center to mentor these young men and women, expose them to relevant, real-time legal issues, and provide an analytical approach to solving the social issues plaguing our society today,” said Rahim Smith, executive director of legal exposure and law professor at Southern University Law Center. “By teaching these young adults about their constitutional rights, procedural history, and current statutes, it provides invaluable exposure to these children that they may not have received without this platform.”

“We believe it is critically important that today’s youth understand the value of their voices and how to use those voices to make a meaningful difference in the future,” said Chelsea Graves, community relations principal for Louisiana Healthcare Connections. “The Young Leaders Academy of Baton Rouge shares our commitment to ensuring healthy futures for local youth, and we are pleased to support their efforts to engaging the young people of our state in the important conversations about social justice and equality.”

To learn more about ‘My Voice Matters’ and YLA, or to request an application to apply to participate, please email Tonya Robertson, YLA Executive Director, at tonya_ylabr@yahoo.com, or call the YLA office at (225) 346-1583. Applications must be received by Sept. 30. Applicants accepted into the program will receive notification by Oct. 9. There are no costs to participate in the program.


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Zenobia Reed is a Ponchatoula native and the social media editor for The Drum Newspaper. Follow her work on twitter and Facebook @theDrumNews.