Hello, Y’all, I’m Rowan Willis-Powell and I’m the new Youth MOVE National Board of Directors President. Although I’m new to this position on the board, I’m not a stranger to Youth MOVE.
When I applied for the Youth Engagement Specialist position at my local Youth MOVE chapter in Maryland back in 2013, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had just finished my freshman year of college and wasn’t going back in the fall. My mental health struggles had consumed me and the internal compass that had directed my life since I was a small child was gone. I was lost and stuck and had no inkling of where I was going.
I grew up in the organization that housed Youth MOVE Eastern Shore. My family was there: a group of women that helped me through the toughest time of my life and didn’t allow me to give up. I felt safe returning and knew that whatever I was signing up for would help me find myself again. What I didn’t know is how far it would take me. I fell in love with the concept that there were other people that had lived through the system like I had and were coming together to help each other heal and raise their collective voices. I was supported and encouraged to share my experiences and to use them to help others. I saw the need for a place for the LGBTQ youth in my community to come together and be supported, so I made a group and met in a local coffee shop with these youth every other week till my grant funding ended.
From there, I bounced around the behavioral health system, working in residential treatment, staffing a peer-run wellness and recovery center, and finally landing at On Our Own of Maryland four years ago. I can connect Youth MOVE to every step of my journey. My long term mentor, Lauren Grimes, was a YMN board member, and the Healthy Transitions project I was staffing as the Youth Coordinator was being supported by YMN. I had seen the impact of this organization from my small local chapter, to these statewide and national efforts, and I was in love.
So three years ago when I ran into Johanna Bergan, Youth MOVE National Executive Director, at a Healthy Transitions gathering, I asked about the board of directors. I avidly wanted to be a part of this organization that changed my life, and I wanted to give back and ensure that other youth are provided with the same opportunities and resources to help them as I was. I’ve served on the board for two years as the Treasurer, and now I am proud to serve as the President of the Board of Directors.