Why Are You Here?

by Emily Westgate '16
October 13, 2015

Emily spent her summer as an iProv intern with Youth In Action (YIA) in South Providence. YIA is a nonprofit organization where youth share their stories, practice leadership, and create change in their communities; you can hear an audio story about YIA here

I remember on one of the first days I spent at YIA, a young man sat down across from me and asked, "So Emily, why are you here?"

Caught off guard at the bluntness of his question, I replied with the standard: "I'm here as the summer intern from Brown to design a summer program for all of YIA youth." Apparently he wanted to know more and continued with more questions like, "So who are you? Tell me about yourself." While I answered those questions, hopefully a little more relaxed, I was still stuck on his first question. Why was I there? Why YIA?

As I reflect on my experiences this summer, I know there are a hundred different reasons I could share to answer these questions, like the fact that all staff share a large open room as an office which contributes to the collaborative work that happens within the organization or that they have such strong relationships with the youth that at any given moment a staff member can tell when someone might need to talk, be left alone, or just have an intense dance party in the office.

But, most importantly, I knew I was at YIA for the right reasons because the first time I met Pegah and the rest of the staff at YIA, I knew that they were genuinely passionate about their work and the lives of YIA youth. That commitment, the late nights in the office (which I called "the house" all summer), and the constant empowerment of youth in the organization was what originally drew me to YIA, but it is the youth who inspire me to want to stay involved.

As part of Summer Series, YIA collaborated with The Avenue Concept to paint a mural on the side of building as a community. The formerly bare brick of 672 Broad St. now represents the empowerment of youth that is embedded in the roots of YIA. The mural reminds those who pass by YIA what the organization believes in: that youth are the foundation of Providence and any desired change in the city. If there is one thing I learned this summer, it is that YIA is filled with intelligent and passionate youth who are capable of creating change if given the opportunity. In just eight weeks, I have grown so attached to an organization that I believe exemplifies what a youth based organization should be - one that truly and deeply believes in the success of youth.