What We Do

We help prevent community violence through youth lead research and strategies.

The Greater Hartford Youth Leadership Academy (GHYLA) at HCTC includes students ages 13 through 18, offering them serious – and fun – opportunities to learn and grow! 

Using a nationally recognized problem-solving approach our youth helped develop a decade ago, the youth define a problem, research its root causes and local conditions, and build recommendations for change. 

Individuals and team members develop research, communication, and leadership skills useful later in high school, on the job, and/ or in college. During enrichment trips and at special events – and in Raising Youth Voices podcasts – the youth discuss community issues in a safe space – and gain the knowledge to be confident advocates. 

See our Frequently Asked Questions for details below! 

13 to 18 looking to the future, we are studying ways to give support to, and receive mentorship from, our GHYLA alumni after they graduate from high school. Our plan is to involve those who have moved into the workforce and are pursuing careers – as well as those either now enrolled in or graduated from college. We’ll have an announcement about this initiative late 2021 into 2022. 

Using the problem-solving approach that our youth helped the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) develop a decade ago, the youth define a problem, research its root causes and local conditions, and build recommendations for change. 

Our research has included interviews with local leaders knowledgeable about the specific subject at hand. For example, in a project with Saint Francis (Trinity Health of New England), our youth recently examined how to prevent child injuries and fatalities – and discussed the child welfare system with clients, social workers, administrators, and neuroscientists. They also looked at the challenges the pandemic presented to parents and teachers, as they adjusted to the new normal of COVID-19. Over many weeks, work groups led by youth follow the CADCA framework (online here, on pages 23-26), set objectives, and develop recommendations for achieving change. 

Serious – and fun – opportunities to learn and grow! GHYLA experiences include discussing community issues in a safe space – and gaining the knowledge to be a confident advocate. 

Individually and working as team members, our youth participants develop research, communication, and leadership skills that prove useful later in high school, on the job, and/ or in college. We see tremendous growth when young people work to interpret national, state, and local data, debate 

the causes and conditions of our community’s problems, and think through recommendations to address those problems. 

Ultimately, the youth think through and create public presentations to clarify recommendations for positive change. In so doing, the youth learn to briefly summarize complicated information in plain terms – to bring the important youth perspective to their peers as well as policy leaders. 

For our annual region-wide youth summits, the youth lead interactive sessions. Throughout the pandemic, they have sharpened their communications skills via their Raising Youth Voices podcast series. In all of these experiences, young people get to experience firsthand what it is like to be a leader. 

The youth have taken many trips for enrichment and also to speak as advocates at events, for example, before our City Council, state legislature, and congressional delegation. 

The youth have presented their recommendations for alleviating poverty, equalizing education, and preventing gun violence and trauma to Hartford City Council; State legislative hearings; and at the national March For Our Lives events in Washington, D.C., and Newtown, CT. 

The youth have advocated at the Eighteen x 18 voter registration conference sponsored by Yari Shahidi in Los Angeles, CA; at a congressional delegation briefing hosted by Rep. John Larson and Sen. Chris Murphy at the Library of Congress and urged the Connecticut General Assembly to expand Black History into a serious part of school curriculum, instead of just a one-month feature every February. 

With the outbreak of the pandemic, the youth not only adjusted to strengthen their Raising Youth Voices podcast series, they converted to do research via Zoom, along with the 2021 Third Annual Regional Summit by and for youth. As well, the national “Excelerator” program placed our youth in the role of commentators each week for a month, as they reacted to professional leaders’ calls for reforming the child welfare system. 

For enrichment, the youth have taken many eye-opening trips, such as in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City, as well as at the annual college recruitment festival in National Harbor, MD held by Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Our philosophy is that new knowledge and experiences help young people grow exponentially – and to DREAM BIG. 

Historically, since the early 2000s, youth who participated in this program have gone off to college and graduate school and became lawyers, educators, entrepreneurs, first responders and even contracted administrators for HCTC, among many other professions. The problem-solving deliberations of youth teams dig into the root causes and local conditions of issues related to violence, from chronic school absenteeism to exposure to violence, and the many ripple effects of poverty on children who grow up in a culture of violence. The annual region-wide youth summits, conducted by and for youth, exemplify how young people gain knowledge and develop leadership skills.

In addition to the administrative and management guidance provided by the Program Director, the Youth and College Support Division will have a Youth and College Ambassador assigned to coordinate alumni mentorship efforts on behalf of current youth participants. Monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly stipends will support these mentoring students on their campuses (expenses, housing deposits, food, toiletry, supplies, etc.) are planned, noting the data on the food insecurity and other factors that result in college students dropping out. We have learned that college persistence can succeed or fail based on a small, certain level of financial support. 

Planned support-team outreach will take place biweekly in team meetings led by our Youth and College Ambassador, with guidance from our current Research Coach, a college student who has been instrumental in ensuring the quality of our 2021 virtual meetings and region-wide youth summit. Weekly check-ins for support will connect each mentor with an assigned student to make sure they are doing well (mentally, academically, socially, and emotionally), and to assist in the ongoing development of academic and career goals. 

This “Each One, Reach One” mentoring technique assumes just-in-time supports that assist youth at all age levels in their adjustments to overcome obstacles and stay on the course chosen for their academic and social growth. Building on the successful summer program in 2021, we plan to grow this Each One, Reach One initiative to support futures beyond high school for those youth not yet ready to enroll in college (or uncertain about it). For some, trade and entrepreneurship options will be critically important, as they will be the most practical pathways into the workforce. In turn, desirable, well-paying jobs based on professional training and certification can eventually be springboards to higher education, when individuals are prepared to make that decision. 

Just as HCTC has made course corrections before, so the Youth and College Support Division is responding to the new normal under COVID-19 by implementing an innovative peer leadership and mentoring initiative that reflects the disruptive impact of the pandemic on the academic and social development of youth.