Written by Johanna Bergan
2020 brought us all unimaginable challenges and changes. I frequently wonder what my February 2020 self would have said if I could explain where I would be in December. Would I believe myself? Weeks in lockdown, weeks in quarantine, absolutely no travel, hours of Zoom meetings for work and school, navigating our generation’s biggest anti-racism movement fueled by young people (oh, and while we were in a global pandemic). And through all of this, the Youth MOVE Network has shown a resiliency beyond measure.
It’s my job to offer a bit of celebration for us all as we reflect back on the year. These celebration moments are offered not to downplay the hurt and hatred experienced this past year but rather are offered as a reminder that our futures are still before us and we CAN build the world we want to see.
Celebration #1! Programming goes virtual!
March brought shutdown orders for many of us and Youth MOVErs across the country pivoted to doing their work, school, and other normal in-person activities in a virtual environment. From weekly Zoom peer support meetings to Friday night game nights to Discord channels, Youth MOVE chapters turned on virtual youth engagement almost overnight. Our national team is used to working from home and virtually, but this year was intense. Every conference, professional development training we had scheduled was either cancelled or shifted to virtual. We’ve pivoted in partnership with others who have never worked virtually and pulled them along for the ride. One tiny silver lining of this year is that simply everyone knows how to use Zoom (finally ;)). We have been able to provide assistance to our network through training, resource creation, and blogs on virtual engagement.
Celebration #2! Youth MOVErs keep moving!
2020 was full of good reasons to skip programming – but we didn’t! 10 Dare to Dream grantees took on the challenge of shifting their programs online (and did so excellently!). We hosted our first-ever virtual Rockstar Award show (and it went so well we are going to do it again!).
The network participated in vision boarding for the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month with our MOVE It Forward campaign. And we wrapped up 2020 with our most successful end-of-year fundraising campaign to date, raising just about $6,500 (and updated the Youth MOVE swag to the next level).
Celebration #3! New opportunities!
In a year where many of us felt like just hanging on was hard enough, Youth MOVE took on new opportunities! We are proud to be the youth engagement partners in SAMHSA’s newest funding of the National Training and Technical Assistance Center (the NTTAC) and our doors are open to accepting all of your questions and requests for engaging youth in mental health services and mental health systems design. The launch of the Youth MOVE Peer Center as one of SAMHSA’s five funded Consumer and Consumer-Supported Technical Assistance Centers is epic. Many advocates have been pushing for youth peer support specific investments from the federal government – and here it is! The Peer Center is already responding to 50+ youth peer support needs in agencies and states across the country and we are ready for your request today!
Celebration #4! Change may be hard but sometimes it is good!
2020 challenged us to be responsive to y’all in a global pandemic. And we challenged ourselves to be partners in uncovering racism in our country… and then doing something about it. Work in both of these areas must continue in 2021 (more on all that in a future post). In our initial response, we’ve launched a regular blog feature (hey! You found that right here ;)) and have dramatically increased our messaging and communication with our Network and broader partners. This practice is here to stay. We made new products and offered new trainings. We’re committed to staying on our toes and continuing this innovation.
My final thoughts on 2020 are those of gratitude. We could not have navigated this year without the energy and passion of each and every Youth MOVE chapter leader and member. We needed the support of each and every one of our partners. And I needed the support of an amazing board of directors and staff team – each who contributed something great and beautiful into our work this year. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Now let’s get out there and tackle 2021!