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Institutional Racism Project

In 2001, NYEC launched The Institutional Racism Project, a youth-driven initiative designed to document authentic youth voices discussing institutional racism in our society. The project had three major goals:

  • provide a tool for youth service providers, teachers and other professionals to promote open discussion with young people about institutional racism;

  • serve as a project-based learning opportunity for young people; and

  • create an important forum for youth to inform the workforce development field about their thinking and experiences with institutional racism.

    In the beginning of the project, NYEC convened a working group of experts (NYEC members and colleagues outside the field) to inform our efforts. The fourteen young people, selected through an application and essay process, were ages 16 through 23 and represented a diversity in cultural background, geographic region, program experience, and gender.

    At the first meeting in April 2001, the young people decided to develop a magazine, entitled NYEC Voices of Diversity Magazine, and a dialogue guide for programs on using the magazine to promote discussion.

    From 2001-2004, the "Voices of Diversity" (VOD) youth convened in-person five more times and worked together outside of those meetings. As a result, the youth created four issues of the magazine. The youth conceptualized, wrote, and edited all issues of the magazine. Issue I focused on exploring institutional racism; Issue II on community action to combat institutional racism; Issue III on institutional racism in the educational system, and Issue IV on racism in the media. NYEC published and distributed thousands of these magazines around the country.

    The magazines were addressed directly to youth, and were also designed for youth programs to use with participants to stimulate discussion and action on issues of institutional racism. With the input of the Voices of Diversity youth, NYEC created and tested a "Voices of Diversity Dialogue Guide" to help program staff utilize the magazines with youth. Feedback from programs using the magazine was overwhelmingly positive.

    The Institutional Racism Project gave youth a voice and a learning opportunity, while providing a valuable tool to promote discussion of diversity and racism in the field of work force development. The project also informed NYEC's work in other ways. Youth from the Voices of Diversity Group participated in several planning committees for NYEC projects and events and represented NYEC at several national meetings. In addition, NYEC revised the Promising and Effective Practices Network (PEPNet) quality standards and tools to recognize staff development and program activities that support diversity and help youth confront institutional racism.

    The Institutional Racism Project was supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

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