Youth-Led Board in Tacoma Shines Spotlight on Homelessness, Awards $15K to Treehouse

By Trent Freeman, Marketing & Communications Director

Treehouse staff participated in a series of three virtual dialogue sessions about the effects of housing and homelessness on equity in education recently with the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Board. The youth-led board awarded a $15,000 grant to Treehouse as part of the process.

“They’re asking a lot of tough questions of multiple nonprofit organizations in Pierce County that specifically serve youth,” said Jesse Becerra, Academic & Career Volunteer Coordinator at Treehouse, who has been involved with the YPB for three years. “What she [GTCF Program Officer Janece Levien] is trying to do with these youth is simultaneously train them on how to engage community and use their voice to give them decision-making power, which I thought was very interesting.”

During the last 10 years, the YPB has grown from a traditional grant program supporting youth-serving organizations to one the 2018-19 cohort shifted to focus on issues that matter to them in Pierce County. Since October 2019, a group of 18 young adults meet twice monthly to discuss philanthropy, racism, equity and more.

“There is a large population of homeless teens in Pierce County. It’s tough when our students experience homelessness for even a short period of time,” said Waz Thay, an Education Specialist at Treehouse who participated in the sessions. “It’s a frustrating issue, and I’m glad homelessness was the center of this discussion.”

The youth select the topics for the sessions. Another recent series focused on the criminal justice system (see video below), and there is often intersectionality with issues that impact youth in foster care.

“It’s truly youth led. They even get to choose where the grant money goes,” Jesse said. “Not only did they ask the questions, they actually got to select us to be participants and grant recipients.”

Moving forward, Jesse and Waz both stressed their biggest takeaway from the sessions is the importance of incorporating youth voice into organizations that serve their needs.

“Our youth must have the opportunity to understand the details of the services we provide, and through their own voice, be able to impact how we provide those services for them,” Jesse said. “Ultimately, we must all create room and space for youth to be involved, engaged and develop.”

Support Treehouse as we partner with youth in foster care to weather the pandemic. Make a gift at treehouseforkids.org/donate.


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About the Author

Trent Freeman is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Treehouse. He is passionate about storytelling as a tool to drive positive change for youth impacted by foster care.

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