Neema is a young leader that is making a difference in her community through NAZA’s Youth In Action! initiative.
She first got involved in Youth In Action! through a NAZA-funded afterschool program with DYMON last year. Allie Duke, NAZA’s Youth Advisor and founder of Youth In Action!, recruited Neema and another student to lead a community project. Neema took the lead on choosing the mission and the vision of the project, and worked with her fellow youth at DYMON to organize a food and clothing drive for the homeless. It was the focus on helping the community, combined with the model of youth leadership and centering youth voice, that got her interested.
Neema says the most important thing she’s learned is how to make sure her voice is heard. She recently traveled to the Youth Powered national conference in Chicago with her fellow youth leaders to present their plan for a youth-led afterschool program that focuses on youth leadership, life skills, and peer-based support, and compete for funding with other youth teams from around the country. The Nashville group took 3rd place, securing $15,000 for their project.
Youth In Action! has created an environment where Neema and her fellow youth participants are encouraged to share their ideas and “don’t feel shunned, like we’re too young or don’t know this or that.” After returning from the trip, Neema met with an MNPS Board member and had the opportunity to discuss with her one-on-one what youth want to see happen and how they can help make changes.
“Neema is such an insightful thinker and advocate for youth in her community! Our YIA team values and appreciates her bright personality along with her intentional and innovative ideas.” – Allie Duke
Her favorite part of this work is the focus group meetings, “when we come together and hear everybody’s ideas. Being able to compromise and work together is really fun as a team.” She likes making sure that voices are amplified – not just her own, but other youth and people whose thoughts and opinions might not otherwise be heard.
NAZA is committed to creating conditions and opportunities for youth to develop holistically and learn multiple skills to thrive in education, career, and life.