Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month 2021
Join us this February for the Youth in the Lead Campaign!
Campaign Images by Youth in the 2021 Lead Artist Alani Summers
How is your design process demonstrating “youth in the lead”?
I really tried my best to include many aspects of youth who are not often included. I wanted every youth to feel heard and represented in my design and tried to convey that as best as I could. Oftentimes in youth lead projects, not everyone is represented and that’s not okay.
What advice do you have for others in telling their own stories with their artwork?
My advice is to tell your story and tell it with truth, passion, and dignity. Don’t let your voice be silenced by others and don’t let others negatively influence your artistic expression. People often get told their artwork is weird, ugly, too loud, too bold, too plain, etc. Art is open to interpretation and meaning is subjective. Don’t get discouraged from the negative opinions and above all, don’t be too hard on yourself. Art is what you make it.
I am currently a 15-year-old high school sophomore at Bella Vista Highschool. I’ve cherished writing since I was young and my adopted, lesbian moms have always encouraged me to pursue my passions with an open mind.
Around 8th grade, I discovered my adoration for spoken word poetry, as well as came out as pansexual. In my poetry, I find myself able to express complex topics such as prejudice, sexuality, and mental health issues I’ve struggled with. Poetry gives me a creative outlet that I find both healing and profoundly inspiring. However, even more than poetry, I found a passion for healing others who are struggling. I plan to pursue a career in social work and activism; to become an advocate for minorities and those who struggle with our fragmented systems.
I’ve also been a girl scout for most of my life and completed the prestigious silver award, the second-highest honor a girl scout can achieve. To obtain the award, I had to complete a project to improve my community and log over 100 hours of community service. My project concentrated on casting light on career options for young girls that they’re often not taught about in school, especially surrounding the STEM fields. I planned and hosted a career fair, inviting different women of outstanding, often male-dominated career fields to speak about their experiences. In the end, I was awarded a high honor and an official ceremony, but most notably, a newfound awareness of craving to become more involved.
Since this, I’ve performed speeches in front of my school, recited poetry in front of crowds, and achieved so much more I never could have imagined. I’m a tenacious honors student who is always willing to push myself further and seek new opportunities. Though it took me time to discover my path, I’m now on the road to becoming someone I never thought I could be. Though the young, hesitant girl inside of me is still frightened, the passionate activist in me can’t wait to discover what the future holds.
About the Campaign
Calling upon our value of equity, the Youth in the Lead campaign strives to follow the wisdom and expertise of young people as they work to prevent teen dating violence, advocate for healthy relationships, heal from trauma, and engage in interconnected forms of social justice. In the spirit of strategic followership and countering tokenization, the content of the campaign will primarily feature youth voices. We will strengthen and deepen the conversation we began last year, and challenge adults to share their power by holding space to learn from youth.
Our efforts in 2021 will need to be different: Since COVID-19 emerged, there has been a general decline in the number of youth who are engaged in work with DV & SV organizations. Young people are dealing with many stressors, including adapting to virtual learning, isolation, depression, financial struggles, and more—all on top of gender and racial oppression that harmfully impacts self-confidence and relationships. At the same time, youth consciousness is blooming into action to create change, as seen in the article Hit Hard by Pandemic, Youth of Color are Leading Activism, New Poll Finds. They are aware of inequities in social structures, and how they’re set up. Preventionists are working hard to create welcoming spaces—but have expressed a need for additional outreach tools and ways to adapt their curricula.
Explore our campaign page for shareable social media content, working guides for preventionists, and more!