This spring’s theme in our Mississippi office has been “Pivot to the Possible.” As the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we worked, we adapted, innovated, and found new ways to meet the needs of our youth. Continued economic uncertainty has multiplied the barriers that current and former foster youth face as they transition into adulthood. And for our young people of color, recent tragic events have drawn attention to the long-existing systemic barriers that they are up against. At First Place, we have the honor to come alongside our foster youth to support them in developing new skills and using their voices to advocate for change. They are strong, they are resilient, and they are speaking up.

Mississippi Youth Voice – The Work Continues

On June 19, Mississippi Youth Voice members spoke to Mississippi lawyers at “Fearless Lawyering for Children” a webinar by the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. In their panel presentation, youth discussed the difference a lawyer can make, how lawyers can support youth participation in court, and some simple suggestions for empowering foster youth to participate in the court process effectively.

Participating in court can be an empowering experience for youth that helps them learn to advocate for themselves,” explained MSYV Member Haley Nunnery. “We need to make sure that youth are included and their voices are heard when it comes to decisions made about them. They need to know that somebody in the courtroom has their back.”

Three Mississippi Youth Voice members sit several feet apart while speaking on a video conference

Members are also in the process of accepting new applications to Mississippi Youth Voice. We will be expanding our team once again to include new youth and new voices, while continuing to build the skills of our current members. Youth from central Mississippi as well as the Mississippi Gulf Coast are encouraged to apply. Applications are available here: www.tinyurl.com/MSYouthVoice.

Keys to Your Financial Future Training Goes Virtual!

We finished our first in-person financial capability training for youth on March 10 – just days before stay-at-home orders went into place in Mississippi. Within a month, we put out an invitation for youth to join virtual trainings instead – and we have had a great response, with the courses filling to capacity and many more youth added to a waitlist for the next round of classes.

Site director, Claire Graves, facilitated two training courses for youth throughout the month of May focused on topics including building credit, budgeting, and setting priorities when money is tight. We are also excited to announce that we have invited two of the youth who completed the online trainings to become trainers themselves! There is nothing better than youth serving and building up other youth.

While transitioning to virtual trainings was a challenge, one benefit was that we were able to reach youth throughout Mississippi in a way that would have been hard to achieve through in-person only trainings. Overall, youth from 14 Mississippi counties have participated in Keys to Your Financial Future training or signed up for future classes.

We plan to continue to offer regular online training opportunities to youth even after we are able to resume in-person trainings because we’ve seen how powerful this option can be for reaching youth where they live.

Completing the Keys to Your Financial Future training is the first step in joining the Opportunity Passport program which allows current and former foster youth ages 16-25 to match their savings up to $3,000 toward the purchase of key assets that can help them make a successful transition to adulthood.

If you know a current or former foster youth in Mississippi who might be interested in joining the Opportunity Passport program, they can sign up for the online Keys to Your Financial Future training here: www.tinyurl.com/RegisterForKeys.

Map of Mississippi Identifying Counties where youth are participating in or schedule to participate in virtual trainings