Get in on the Action
This Summer's Youth Action Institute Is Now Accepting Applications From Budding AIDS Activists
April 26, 2007
The Fourth of July holiday is all about cookouts, fireworks and parades. But Independence Day weekend is also a great opportunity to do something fun that will make America a better place in the long run. That's why, starting July 4, dozens of young people will come together in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the Youth Action Institute (YAI). YAI is an action-packed five-day training session where youth learn what it takes to organize their peers into fierce AIDS advocates and activists -- and help end the epidemic.
YAI, which is sponsored by the grassroots AIDS activist network Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA), runs from July 4 to July 8, and there are still spots available. All young people between the ages of 16 and 26 with an interest in AIDS activism are encouraged to apply. "You don't need to be a seasoned activist to attend the conference. We want youth who have the passion to work in AIDS activism but haven't had much experience," says Charles Long, a YAI organizer and graduate. "YAI will provide them with all of the tools they need to succeed."
YAI participants will meet people living with HIV and AIDS from the U.S. and abroad, connect with like-minded young people, learn about current AIDS issues, and how to engage in grassroots advocacy and direct action, aka protests. (More details regarding the location and speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.)
In previous years, the conference took place in Chicago and Fort Collins, Colorado with as many as 100 attendees. For the YAI's third year, organizers decided to limit this year's group to approximately 35 dynamic youth for a more in-depth training that allows for plenty of interaction between participants and leaders. Raleigh was chosen to bring attention to the AIDS epidemic in the South.
"The South is dramatically underserved, particularly in terms of prevention and activism," says Long. "With the invigoration of C2EA in the Carolinas, the number of colleges in the Raleigh area, and a museum focused on youth action in social justice movements, Raleigh stood out as a perfect venue."
Amanda Woods attended YAI 2006. "It was the best conference I've ever been to, and I really learned how to get others involved and build an organization," she says.
Although it's officially five-days long, the YAI experience continues on well after the July gathering. Participants are asked to embark on an eight-week grassroots project of their own design to build participation in C2EA with the help of an AIDS organization in their hometown and YAI staff.
"The project can be big or small, from collecting signatures for a petition urging politicians who are running for office to state their position on AIDS issues, or focusing on raising awareness of HIV and prevention on your campus," says Long.
After her YAI experience, Woods started a campaign among local AIDS organizations in her home town of Charleston, West Virginia, to relaunch that city's defunct HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. "I took longer than the allotted eight weeks! But I got the dialogue started among organizations and I think it could really happen this year," she says.
Applying for YAI
Applying for YAI is simple: fill out an application that asks for three short essays and an idea for a proposed post-YAI project. That proposal includes identifying a local AIDS service organization, community-based organization, religious institution, LGBT group or other organization that you plan to work with for the duration of the eight week project.
Those selected to attend YAI are asked to raise $500 to offset the costs of the Institute and weekly stipends provided to participants during the eight-week projects. In the past, participants have held bake sales and car washes, asked their church for help and requested sponsorships from local businesses. "Fundraising is a great way to overcome your shyness and come up with creative solutions to involving people in advocacy," says Long. "That's community organizing!"
To find out more information and apply to YAI 2007, click here. Applications are due by 5pm on May 22.
This article was provided by Housing Works. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.