Think teenagers are too young to make a difference? Think again.
The Possibility Project believes that change should happen not only in the lives of participants, but also in the communities that we share. An important part of our program is motivating and organizing our youth to take what they have learned in the program out into the world and become agents for change in their communities.
Each year in each program, youth work together to design and execute community action projects on issues important to them, such as teen suicide, educational inequity, or domestic violence. These projects need to either raise awareness on issues they feel need attention or advocate for ideas and solutions they think are important. They also need to be led by youth themselves, giving them a real-world experience of creating change.
In these projects, youth choose the issues they care about and then form themselves into teams to tackle each issue. Each team has 3 to 4 weeks to research, design, and implement their one-day project. They then go in to the streets and out to our city’s communal spaces to use their talents and raise their voices for change. Our youth learn that when they see a social issue causing harm or injustice, they have the leadership ability to make a difference and organize those around them to help them do it.
The 2015-2016 After-School Cast decided to choose the topic of Gender Socialization because of how lack of conversation around this topic. The Pulse night club hate crimes only further enforced the point. As news rolled in about the attacker potentially being a closeted homosexual, the cast started to relate it to the gender trainings earlier in the year and associated the attackers behavior with that of “toxic masculinity”. They came up with a timeline of statements that they were either told or heard while growing up. Statements that were meant to inforce the gender norms. The reason why the cast decided to present it this way was because they wanted to put an emphasis on how both genders receive this information and at what age. The message was well received from the crowds that gathered around and after they viewed the scene they were asked to write a note, either one word or a small phrase, on what they thought it meant to be a man or woman. The cast was pleased to find that the majority of their community supported them and had similar feelings on the topic.
Saturday Program 2015-2016
Saturday Cast members were concerned that the issue of homelessness was being overlooked in their communities because of the overwhelming amount of people affected by it. They did extensive research and found that the facilities available to people suffering from homelessness did not match the amount of people dealing with this issue. They found a busy section of Union Square Park and handed out pamphlets that gave out information on how to locate food pantries, clothing drives and facilities that would allow people to shower and wash their clothes, if necessary, throughout all 5 boroughs. They also created posters that gave detailed information on the root causes of homelessness and what they could immediately do assist people in that situation. This group encouraged people to pass the information on the pamphlets along to those that they knew were suffering from homelessness. They felt particularly passionate around making sure that people were well-informed of the facilities available to them.
Foster Care 2016
The 2016 Foster Care Cast chose the topic of Teen Suicide because Foster Care Youth are at a higher risk of attempting and committing suicide. They wanted to raise awareness of higher risk groups and challenge current models of suicide prevention. They decided that it would be more effective to address the issue emotionally by getting people to write anti-suicide notes to people they care about. The idea being that when someone is contemplating writing their own suicide note they could read their anti-suicide note thereby receiving emotional support/perspective “in the moment”. The cast feels that this is more effective than the advice given from current models which include tips such as: “remove all sharp objects from the person’s home”. The cast obtained 106 pledges from the public to write notes for people in their lives and to support the idea on social media by using the hashtag #Sincerley. They also passed out 250 informational flyers on the topic.