Zoryna (Zee) Lealai speaks on a panel about youth homelessness and social change

Raising Our Voices: A Look Inside the Youth Voice Summit

Kendalyn Mckisick Our Youth

The very first Youth Voice Summit took place May 30th, 2019, from 10am-5pm at Covenant House Alaska. The event, planned and organized by the Youth Task Force (YTF), was intended to inform the community about the problems and hurdles homeless Anchorage youth face.

The YTF  is a diverse group of youth and young adults who have experienced homelessness and who share their voices, commitment, time and talents to achieve a shared vision with the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP): to make the youth and young adult homeless experience rare and brief, and when it does occur, it is a one-time occurrence.


The morning began with a panel where 5 youth shared their most difficult struggles and what their most important goal currently is. Each of their experiences is unique and their passions within creating social change vary. Their personal experiences include a range of struggles as well as victories. Some deal with mental health issues, substance abuse, LGBTQ matters, maintaining healthy social habits and relationships, family traumas, and the stigmas of homelessness. Some are currently still experiencing homelessness while others have found housing and jobs they have maintained.

YTF was formed when certain youth realized there was a real need for youth representation in the decision-making process concerning programs and services provided for people in their position. These youth organized and formed the YTF, which became a platform for them to be included in serious, meaningful community discussions & decisions pertaining to future & current programs provided to homeless youth and youth who are in the foster care system.

At the summit, these individuals joined their voices in hopes to demonstrate dedication and commitment to creating programs and services that more effectively serve them and so many others like them. They were willing and ready to share the darkest areas of their lives for the greater good. There were organizations represented throughout the audience, including Choosing Our Roots and Rasmuson Foundation, who were ready to hear their stories.

Amy Kelley, a member of the Youth Task Force Steering Committee, sat on stage eager to share her experience during the morning’s introductory panel discussion. She exclaimed, “I’m ready to get raw! Like I’m ready to dig deep and really TALK about some REAL issues” urging the audience not to be shy with their questions. One of the audience members asked in response, “what exactly do you mean by “get raw”?” Amy responded with immediacy, “if I’m not crying and you’re not crying with me, then we aren’t getting raw enough!”

Through tears, one member shared that she had just woken up the previous morning to the sound of tents being cut—tents belonging to people she knew. And then the cops came for her tent. Their homes were being destroyed and all they could do was stand there and watch it happen. She informed us that law enforcement will hold a certain amount of your belongings for up to 3 months, but they will only hold items for you once; each time thereafter, it’s thrown out.

The fiery passion these youth all share for creating change in their community is special. They are willing to bare everything and share their personal stories all to benefit the lives of others and change the experiences of youth homelessness. What they shared and discussed, in a room full of people representing various community organizations, took serious courage. They showed up with answers, explanations, and their own personal expertise on youth advocacy, sex trafficking, and trauma informed care. The information sessions were a combination of presentation and group discussion, where serious issues and ideas were shared to create plans of action for further development of the Youth Task Force in the Anchorage community.  

The next Youth Voice Summit is scheduled for July 31st. Do you want to become a part of the movement? Register now!