Youth Empowerment Summit Kicks Off with Performance, Play, and Civic Engagement

We launched our second annual Youth Empowerment Summit with a Kick-Off Celebration outside of City Hall on September 14th. 

The Youth Empowerment Summit is an annual week-long series of events created to spark community conversations about building a supportive community for positive youth development. 

The theme of this year’s summit was the Power of Belonging. According to Krys Burnette, editor of 21st Century Organizational Development, “Belonging is the outcome of holding space where everyone truly feels empowered to speak up, make a change, and shift the culture.”

In order for young people to truly feel that they belong, we believe that they need to feel empowered to be civically engaged with their community so they can be the ones to speak up and make a change.

A Joint Effort

Belonging echoed through Saturday’s activities and included a powerful performance by Dance Kaleidoscope hosted by Columbus Area Arts Council; and a special visitation by Soft Civic designer, Bryony Roberts.

We launched the Summit by celebrating at Soft Civic, an installation of Exhibit Columbus. We thought it was the perfect location to demonstrate to young people the connection between a sense of belonging and being civically engaged with their community.

Soft Civic

Soft Civic was created by Bryony Roberts with with community organizations like youth leadership meetings, public discussions on democracy, and music performances in mind.

“This design is hopefully going to make the possibility of using this as a public space either for play, or for protest, or for performance more inviting and more accessible,” Bryony said.

With Bryony’s hope of activating the public spaces around City Hall’s main entrance, Soft Civic was a perfect place to celebrate the kick-off of the Summit.

Kids climbed on the structures while live music was played from the steps of City Hall. Some people sat on the scooped ropes and chatted with one another, while others discussed the structure with Bryony herself. 

Her design invites everyone to come together outside of City Hall and take part in civic engagement, including young people.

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Celebrating the Start of an Active Week

After the performance and words from Bryony, youth and families could explore Soft Civic while listening to live music. They learned about the week’s events such as the ANGST Documentary and Panel, and the Nathan Harmon Keynote and Youth Panel.

Our community partner organizations, FFY Teens and Big Brothers Big Sisters, also joined us to celebrate the day and provided refreshments for program funding.

There were bubble wands, live music, hot dogs, chalk stations, resources, and the first spark of community conversations on the ‘Power of Belonging’.

Special thanks to Columbus Area Arts Council and Exhibit Columbus for co-hosting this event. We greatly appreciate Dance Kaleidoscope’s moving performance and Bryony Roberts for sharing her time with us.

Also, a big thank you to our volunteers and youth ambassadors who helped make the day possible!

Photography by Malanoski Fine Art Photography