Tamara Johnson, Youth N Action Program Manager, works out of a 40 story building in downtown Seattle, but she is rarely there. She spends most of her days advocating for youth by acquiring funding to create space for system involved youth to gain concrete leadership skills. She employs them to plan mental health awareness events, lead engaging mental health focused community forums, and execute stigma reduction activities through project based work.
During the week of September 14-18th, 2014, System of Care youth leaders ages 15-20 from regions across Washington State gathered to collaborate in original artistic creations in honor of National Recovery month in September. The collected artwork was to be shared through online connections as well as at local schools, mental health agencies and drug and alcohol treatment centers. These visuals would be posted as motivating messages in community agencies that share resources, teach hope, provide help and wraparound. A daunting outreach task that will be shared by Jessica Bayne and Lorrin Ghering of the Department of Behavioral Health and Recovery.
Eastern Washington Youth Leadership Adventure; Recovery and Advocacy through Arts and Forum Theatre commenced with praises for Youth for Community Growth youth team (Y.C.G TREE Yakima) who were the designated planning committee whom also assisted to finalize all things leading up to the event.
Y.C.G. youth members were congratulated by sponsors and supporters present on the first day of the event to include Andrea Parrish, the adventurous System of Care Manager, from the Department of Social and Human Services in Olympia and Carrie Huie Pascua, the dedicated Project Director for Yakima Valley System of Care.
The four-day leadership event program opened up to the sounds of Brittany Davis, a remarkable visually impaired young lady, camera’s flashed, while she translated the lively melodies of hip hop from the inner chambers of her mind to her free flowing fingers dancing across the keyboard for everyone’s delight.
Tamara, brought in other advocates for youth such as; Brian McCracken, (Youth N Action) Poet and Youth Program Coordinator, Lorrin Gehring, Youth Engagement Specialist (Department of Behavioral Health and Recovery) Also in company was Alicia Frometa, Poet and Youth Voice Coordinator (Your Voice Creative Writing) and Jordan Chaney, Poet and Author (Urban Poets Society).
Notable activities like; the Pongo Teen Writing Story in which participants used the pongo curriculum to build a poem was as a Youth N Action leader, Elizabeth Jetton described,” personal and inspiring.” Many of the 30 young leaders present gathered in a circle at sunset, surrounded by lighted torches as their peers snapped their fingers in harmonious agreement. They spoke and told their transformative real life stories in blurbs of rhyme, poetry, and prose.
This leadership event is one that Tamara Johnson would like to expand on for 2015.These types of high energy, high intensity, arts-infused events are not done every day. The experience that is embedded into the hearts and spirits of the youth is positively life altering. The youth’s Forum Theatre Adventure was led by facilitators Tim McLeod, Forum Theatre Specialist and Community Health Educator for Planned Parenthood and co-facilitator Ted Ryle Forum Theatre Specialist and Clinical Training Administrator for the Department of Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Administration.
To receive a clearer picture of what Forum Theatre is just click the video one more time.