At Juma, we believe in the potential of young people. As such, every organizational practice and decision our leaders make is grounded in our “Youth-First” core value. Our dedicated team believes that it is not enough to simply provide services to youth; we must also actively seek to do right by them and, equally as important, incorporate their input.
In their work focused on the intersection of education and equity, researchers Dr. Deleon Gray and Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang emphasize that when young people are in environments that prevent them from engaging in deep reflection and personal meaning-making—including in stories and messaging about their communities—they are kept from constructing their own narratives and envisioning the full potential of themselves and their future. Creating spaces for reflection, providing feedback, and meaning-making when engaging youth is critical to fostering an environment of belonging and trust.
At Juma, meaningful youth engagement and feedback are critical to designing programming for and evaluating our flagship YouthConnect program. Juma’s workshops and training include real-life opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills and voice, such as:
- Juma’s Social Enterprise Managers provide job supervision through a youth development lens to ensure that youth have a positive experience in a working relationship that values two-way communication and feedback.
- Juma’s Assistant Social Enterprise Manager positions are staffed by experienced Juma alumni who provide near-peer support and further strengthen the youth voice in the program.
- Juma’s Leadership Council, a youth-led representative body at the local level, receives support developing their leadership style, identifying areas for improvement within the program, and designing solutions. While facilitated by adult staff, the activities and content for the Leadership Council are youth-led.
- Youth staff interested in growing professionally within Juma’s social enterprise structure are promoted to leadership roles such as Cart or Stand Leads.
- Juma administers an annual youth satisfaction survey to assess the youth experience and inform youth‐driven program improvements. The information gathered provides valuable input about the effectiveness of Juma’s program and enables Juma leaders to make ongoing, data-driven improvements.
Now more than ever, as Juma is supporting youth in navigating out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we rely on youth feedback to inform our next iteration of work. Youth feedback has informed much of our current post-secondary education strategy, including which colleges and universities Juma should seek to develop more formalized relationships with to help youth navigate the application, enrollment, and graduation requirements. In fact, our staff team sees youth feedback as one of their guiding principles. In everything we do, we’re putting youth first.