YOUTH POWER nothing about us without us YP!

In this eNews
New Long Island RYP
Farewaell and New Beginnings
YP!'s New Assistant Director
Elijah Celebrating 2 Years at YP!
YP! is Hiring
Tell us about your employment experiences
My Brother's Keeper: Challenged Issued. Challenge Accepted.
SUNY Joins #ItsOnUs
Cultural Competence During the Holikdays
Project LIFT: 2015 Behavioral Health Leadership Development Program
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A Message From Your New Long Island Regional Youth Partner!

Alex stands smiling in front of the words speak-up speak out painted on the YP! office wall My name is Alexander Frisina, I was born in the Bronx and adopted directly from the hospital by a family located in Eastern Long Island. I am the youngest of my four siblings and the only one that was adopted.  I graduated from King's College with a degree in Communications. In my time spent at King's, I was a member of both the Football and Lacrosse teams. I have a strong passion for creative writing, with a focus on poetry. This passion was built from my inability to be heard while I was suffering with depression and lack of say in the methods of my treatment. 


At the age of nine I was labeled as a child with Special Education needs. Throughout the rest of my schooling, I was placed on Education Plans which I was given little to no control over until I reached the College level. Prior to then I was never taught my rights and ability to have a say in the accommodations I found helpful or needed. I hope to use my experience and knowledge to aid others that feel like I did, that feel they simply have to do what they are told and don't have the decision making ability.


Over the past few years I have become more open about my experiences and I have noticed by sharing I am not only helping others but also helped myself to feel more empowered. Prior, I had always kept everything inside, but knowing there are others that understand or feel the same has really helped me to move forward. My hope is that my willingness to share will engage others, making them want to share. The more we know the better we can address issues not only on the personal level but also within the community and beyond.


I came to YOUTH POWER! because I felt I had finally found a position that my experience and background would be used to help others. I was drawn in by the ability to use my creativity and personality to address real issues within the region that I have lived my entire life. I come into this position as Regional Youth Partner with an open mind, knowing I have a lot to learn; but I also am confident in the skills I have to offer and the passion I feel towards making a difference. I am eager to get to know the Long Island Regional Team and work with all members to bring change and spread the work of YOUTH POWER!


Alex can be reached at

A Message From Your New NYC Regional Youth Partner!


Kevin stands holding the hope sign and smiling in front of the words Voice Choice Power painted on the YP! office walls Hi Everyone! My  name is Kevin McKee. I was raised by a single mother in San Diego California. My father was a military man and a great dad. He went undiagnosed with mental health challenges until I was seven years old. After receiving a felony charge my father was evaluated and diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia and was sent to a psychiatric facility to serve a lengthy prison sentence. When I was thirteen my mother passed away from Inflammatory Brest Cancer. My mother had five boys, three of which belonged to my father. With my dad being incarcerated, my two brothers and I said goodbye to our younger brothers and was sent to live in NYC. Being separated from my brothers was, at the time, equally as difficult as coping with my mom's death. 


Shortly after arriving in New York, we were placed in the foster care system.

I discovered "My Voice" in college and I realized that I had been unapproachably guarded and didn't really trust anyone. I started to write performance poetry and even picked up the guitar. I used it as a coping mechanism to get EVERYTHING out. After sharing poems with my friend he convinced me to go out and perform. That same year I went on an east coast Slam Poetry tour. I performed at renowned performance venues and filmed for TV documentaries.  I realized that the sharing of my story allowed others to heal from theirs.


I was asked to become a Youth Advocate after the director of my foster care agency seen me on TV and noticed I was missing for most of my home visits. They wanted me to use my voice for others off stage. They wanted me to be a Youth Peer Advocate Consultant for the Administration for Children's Services (ACS). I agreed and my journey to empower others began. I wanted to be the advocate I wish I had. After my contract ended at ACS I applied for the Youth Advocate position at the Mental Health Association (MHA). I applied with the intention of understanding mental health so I could understand what happened to my father's mental health. I was fortunate enough to meet a young person that had the same diagnosis as my father. That experience changed my life in a positive way.


Being at YOUTH POWER! allows me to continue my passion for the empowerment of young people across systems through using my voice. I will be doing my very best to continue the great work that YOUTH POWER! has begun.


Kevin can be reached at

Farewell and New Beginnings
Zach Garafalo

Zach Garafalo at the White HouseDear friends and allies,


My last day with YOUTH POWER! was Wednesday November 26. 


This moment is sentimental because this is my first "real job." And boy has it been a memorable ride. I could not have asked for - or imagined - a better experience. Working with and learning from so many wonderful colleagues, staff, peers, friends and mentors on our shared mission has been meaningful and profound. It is personally and professionally validating to have played a small part on this amazing journey toward social justice and equality in opportunity for all.


My next step is with the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) in Albany. At NYAIL, I will be the Program Director for a Department of Health Monday Follows the Person Demonstration initiative that works with people with disabilities and the elderly across New York to transition them out of long term care facilities (nursing homes) and connect them to community based services and health and wellness supports at senior centers and Independent Living Centers.


Playing my small role at YP! has been transformative. Thank you for letting me be a part of this voyage. I will leave YP! having learned so much from you. I am excited to embody the philosophy of "person driven" and the importance of civic engagement in this new opportunity.


With incredible gratitude and humility.



YP!'s New Assistant Director
Carrie Holmes

  To All Our Friends and Family, 

 As of December 1, 2014, I am the new Assistant  Director for YP! I have been apart of the YP! family  for over two years and I am humbled by this  opportunity. While Zach's departure is bittersweet, I  look forward to this journey and bringing my own  personality and spin to the position. 

 Words cannot express how excited I am to learn  and grow. I believe that the best is yet to come for  YP! and I am glad to be apart of the progression. 

 I am grateful to have had the privileged to work with  Zach and learn from him. I wish him all the best in  his new endeavor and I am certain his future is  bright! 

A special thanks goes out to our Executive Director, The Honorable Stephanie Orlando! Thank you for seeing greater in me and giving me the opportunity to continue to grow, develop, and "Raise My Voice". It truly means a lot. I am sure all our of peers can attest to this; having someone believe in you when so many others have doubted you and discouraged you your whole life is priceless! Thank You! I will do my best and I will make you and our YP! family proud! 
Happy 2 Year YP!  Anniversary
From the entire YP! Family

  On December 10, 2014, 
 Elijah Fagan- Solis celebrated 2 years at    YOUTH POWER! as the Mentoring Coordinator.


Elijah has been doing an outstanding job coordinating RAMP in Albany as well as Supporting VOYA in Rensselaer.  Most recently Elijah has been spearheading My Brother's Keeper in Albany.  

We send our utmost thanks to Elijah for his dedication to YOUTH POWER!'s mission.
YP! is Hiring: Hudson River Regional Youth Partner
YP! is currently seeking qualified and motivated applicants for the Hudson River Regional Youth Partner (RYP) position. 

LOCATION: Albany, New York


STATUS: Full-time salary employee  - Annual salary low 30s plus benefits package



  • Must have personal life experience accessing children's mental health services and be willing to share this information publically. Additional experience with Disability, Foster Care, Addiction, or Juvenile Justice is beneficial.
  • Bachelor's or Associates Degree preferred but not required
  • Must have valid driver's license, good driving record, and reliable transportation
  • Must be able to travel
  • Must pass a background check



  • Independently motivated
  • Excellent coordination and organization skills
  • Experience with youth leadership and advocacy
  • Experience with peer support preferred
  • Excellent written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrated ability to engage with diverse groups
  • Demonstrated ability to speak with small and large groups of people
  • Experience with various software packages: Microsoft Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Go-To, Google applications 


Applicants must send a resume with a formal cover letter in order to be considered. The letter should indicate the tile of the position that the applicant is seeking.


Mail to:              

Attn: Management Office
737 Madison Avenue, Albany NY 12208


Email to: Use the Subject "Hudson RYP"


Tell us about your experiences with education and employment

Do you struggle to find a job or continue your education? Can you think about a time when no matter how hard you tried to pursue a goal, things just kept getting in your way?

If so, it is time to SPEAK UP and SPEAK OUT!

YP! is working with the NYS Department of Labor for their youth employment initiative E3: Engage. Educate. Employ. This initiative will provide training and webinars to youth and youth service professionals on critical education/workforce topics ranging anywhere from knowing where to start and knowing your rights to becoming an entrepreneur!

To ensure that YOUR voices are heard, we are looking for YOUth to share their stories and experiences facing barriers to education or employment.

Send a quote providing insight into the barriers you face, or a story describing a situation where you were not able to pursue an educational/employment goal to Brianna Valesey, Youth Engagement Consultant, at or 518-432-0333 ext. 31.

Be sure to check in on our Facebook page for updates on the initiative!


  • YP! Tumblr 
  • New section of the YP! Website dedicated to E3

For more information, or questions regarding E3 Contact Brianna Valesey at or 518-432-0333 ext. 31

My Brother's Keeper: Challenge Issued; Challenge Accepted

Despite no new federal funding announced, several New York cities have accepted a White House challenge aimed to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men and women of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or the circumstances in which they were born.

The Cities of Rochester, Ithaca, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York and recently Albany are among over 145 Mayors and other local officials who have signed on nationally to the My Brother's Keeper Community Challenge. In September 2014, President Obama issued the challenge, a national call to action, to cities, towns, counties and tribes across the nation encouraging their communities to implement a coherent cradle-to-college and career strategy for improving life outcomes for all youth by connecting them to mentoring, support networks, and the skills they need to find a good job, go to college and work their way into the middle class.

By accepting the challenge, communities commit to convene a "local action summit" by organizing and capitalizing on the commitment of community leaders to help lead the effort. Stakeholders assess needs and assets, determine priorities and set concrete goals based on the MBK Task Force's May 28, 2014 report, tailor a plan that fits their communities' needs and put that plan into action. My Brother's
Keeper is focused on six milestones:

1. Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn: Ensuring all children enter school cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally ready.

2. Reading at grade level by third grade: Ensuring all children read at grade level by age 8 - the age at which reading to learn becomes essential
3. Graduating high school ready for college and career: Ensuring all youth graduate from high school.

4. Ensuring all youth have the option to attend and complete post-secondary education or training and receive the education needed for quality jobs of today and tomorrow.

5. Successfully entering the workforce: Ensuring all youth out of school who wants a job are able to get a job that allows them to support themselves and their families.
6. Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances: Ensuring all youth remain safe from violent crime; and individuals who are confined should receive the education, training and treatment they need for a second chance.

"That's what 'My Brother's Keeper' is all about. Helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works - when it works, in those critical life-changing moments."- President Barack Obama, February 27, 2014.

Your support and encouragement is an important part of this effort. To sign up as a community ally and be connected to your local MBK Community or learn how your community can accept the challenge, please click here. 

SUNY Joins #ItsOnUs Campaign to End Sexual Assault on College Campuses
Melanie Hecker

Rape and other forms of sexual assault are becoming rampant on college campuses. It is estimated one in five women experience sexual assault during their college years. Sexual assault can be defined as any sexual contact or behavior without the consent of the recipient. It can happen to either females or males and it can happen to any age.


According to The Hudsonian, the student newspaper of Hudson Valley Community College in Troy NY, in 2012 5000 cases of sexual assault were reported on college campuses nationwide, 365 of them in New York State. Many more cases go unreported each day, and only 12% of cases are ever reported according to  There is often a "blame the victim" mentality around sexual assault and many victims are too ashamed or guilty to report the incident. There are also people who falsely believe men cannot be victims of rape or sexual assault, or that men should "want it". This has to stop.


To combat this serious social problem on our college campuses, President Obama has launched the #ItsOnUs campaign. This nationwide initiative asks college students to step off the sidelines and make a personal commitment to ending sexual assault.  Obama has said "It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what's unacceptable". Obama has also created the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault that is going to work with colleges and universities to prevent and respond to sexual assault. Other efforts include reviewing existing laws to make sure they are adequate and sending guidance to federally-funded schools.


There is policy effort being made on the home front in New York State as well. Governor Cuomo has urged the SUNY system to make affirmative consent mandatory on all its campuses. What affirmative consent means is that college students will need explicit consent before going forward with a sexual act. Cuomo has also developed a Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights. There was existing legislation called the Clergy Act that required college campuses to disclose campus crime, but it was considered inadequate. The 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act revised the Clergy Act to require sexual assault trainings to students, faculty, and staff.


As part of the #ItsOnUs campaign, students from the SUNY system and students all over the country are taking the pledge to take a personal commitment to keep women and men safe from sexual assault. By pledging, you are promising not to be a bystander and to be a part of the solution. Take the pledge yourself at


If you yourself have been a victim of sexual assault, go to for resources.

Cultural Competence During the Holidays
Melanie Hecker

For many, the winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. It is a time of tradition that many hold dear. However, culturally-competent advocates need to be aware of the traditions of others during this special time.


One group of people who celebrate the holidays differently are the Jews. This year, the festival of Chanukah overlaps with Christmas. This eight-day festival celebrates the Jews winning against the Syrians in a war to be able to worship their own god. Because Jews don't like to celebrate military victories, the holiday is really about the miracle of the oil. The Syrians had trashed the Jewish temple and only left enough oil to burn for one day, but instead the oil lasted eight days. Contrary to popular belief, Chanukah is actually a minor festival: it only has been hyped up due to its proximity to Christmas. Rather than presents, children in the past received "gelt", or small amounts of money. Every night of Chanukah, a nine-candle candle holder called a Menorah is lit. There is one candle on the first day and another is added each day.  Other traditions include the gambling game of Dreidel, involving a special spinning top with Hebrew letters, and eating foods fried in oil such as potato pancakes (also called Latkes) and jelly doughnuts.


Another festival celebrated this time of year is Kwanza. Kwanza will last from December 26 through January 1. Kwanza is an African holiday celebrated by Africans around the world, including African Americans. Kwanza is a time of remembrance, reflection, and recommitment. Those who celebrate Kwanza use the holiday to honor their ancestors, honor the African legacy, and reflect on what it's like to be African in the world. Kwanza is also a time where Africans commit to bettering themselves and keeping their culture alive. Kwanzaa traditions include lighting a candle holder called a Kinara, eating fruits, nuts, and vegetables, displaying ears of corn, and giving presents.


Even Christmas itself is celebrated differently around the world. In Japan, Christmas is not considered a religious holiday but instead as a time to spread cheer. Christmas Eve is thought to be romantic in Japan, similar to Valentine's Day in our country. Schools and businesses are open on Christmas in Japan, and the Japanese eat Christmas Cakes that are sponge cakes decorated with strawberries. In China, Christmas is only celebrated in major cities due to a low Christian population. People in China are more likely to use plastic Christmas trees than real ones. One big Christmas tradition in China is the giving of apples. In France, the tradition is to put nativity cribs with clay figures into the home. The French also eat a meal called the Réveillon on late Christmas eve or early Christmas morning, which can include turkey, goose, foie gras (duck or goose liver) lobster and venison (deer meat). Italian customs are similar to French ones except Italians traditionally eat no meat and sometimes no dairy on Christmas. Christmas in Greece involves children, especially boys, caroling in exchange for money and sweets. Christmas trees are also not traditional in Greece, using shallow wooden bowls instead. These are just some examples of how Christmas is celebrated around the world.


Project LIFT: Call For Applications

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is recruiting young emerging leaders in the field of behavioral health for the   2015 Behavioral Health Leadership Development Program, a part of Project LIFT (Leadership Initiatives For Tomorrow). To Qualify, you must be: 
  • Between the ages of 20-30
  • Currently Working in - or committed to a future career in - the behavioral health field
This intensive seven- month leadership development program:
  • Enhances young professionals' leadership development through self-awareness and interpersonal skills
  • Provides a basic understanding of the Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
  • Helps Increase Recruitment and retention in the behavioral health field.
visit for more information and/or to apply.
Save these Dates:
FTNYS Legislative Awareness Day
FTNYS Annual Conference with YP! Youth Track 
Albany, NY
3rd Annual Foster Care and Children's Mental Health Celebration Luncheon

The views and opinions expressed in third party messages and external links included in this eNews are those of the organization or individual mentioned. They do not necessarily reflect the official positions of YOUTH POWER!.
YOUTH POWER! is the New York State network of young people who have been labeled and are seeking change.  Together, we have decided to speak up about our experiences because no one knows what it is like for us better than we do.  Through peer-to-peer mentoring, we empower young people to be active citizens who are aware of government operations, their rights and the ability to use their voices to influence policies, practices, regulations and laws.  We are young people helping other people, ensuring availability of self-help and peer support while changing systems so that young people get the support they need with the respect and dignity they deserve. Nothing About Us Without Us!

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