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Opinion

Letter to Adults, From a Young Person

On April 18, America’s Promise Alliance celebrated its 20th anniversary by convening the Recommit to Kids Summit. Youth Board Member Stephanie Watkins-Cruz shares her experience at the event and on the board in this moving letter to the adults who attended—and the adults who show up for young people every day.

When a young person experiences something traumatic at any scale, one of the first and most consistent things they battle with are the beliefs that no one understands and no one cares, creating a heavy sense of helplessness that feels like something you have to fight alone.

When I attended the Recommit to Kids Summit, that feeling of helplessness lifted. It lifted because the room was filled with people who actively engage in the lives of young people in more than a dozen different ways.

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Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli discuss the state of the American Dream. Photo credit: ©2017 ImageLinkPhoto.com

The feeling of helplessness lifted because adults who lead and run entire organizations engaged in conversations about the future of young people. It lifted because there were also teachers, principals, and community members talking about the kids they are investing in every single day. It lifted because of caring adults like you.

America’s Promise is currently accepting applications for youth board members and youth trustees. Young people should apply by June 6!

Some of my favorite moments at the Recommit to Kids Summit were the poems, stories, and songs performed by young people and the moments that followed, when they were immediately engulfed in support.

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America’s Promise CEO John Gomperts with City Kids performers. Photo credit: ©2017 ImageLinkPhoto.com

I’ll never forget meeting teachers who talked about their students as if they were rock stars and learning about how much they pour into their students and connect with them unlike anyone else.

The Recommit to Kids Summit and the adults who attended completely shattered the notion that adults don’t understand and don’t care. You are evidence that entire organizations and communities are dedicated to the success of not only their young people, but of young people all over the country. I am not sure of many other events that mean as much or show this much.

Stephanie Watkins-Cruz interviews General Colin and Mrs. Alma Powell about America’s Promise on AOL Build.

My time on the board at America’s Promise Alliance has taught me many things, but the one thing I will hold on to the most is that no one is ever too removed to be engaged. Title, position, and power are not adequate excuses for lack of engagement with the people, communities, and causes we serve.

After sitting in a board room with leaders of organizations I’ve heard of my whole life, and listening to them engage in meaningful conversation about the future of young people, I will never look at leadership the same way again. No matter where my life, academics, or career take me, I will never see the future without seeking a way to invest in the life of a young person the way so many have invested in me.

To the adults who attended the summit, and to the adults who show up for young people every day, thank you. You’ll never know how much your commitment matters. And to the adults who don’t know where to start, or haven’t started yet, remember you’re never too far removed to be engaged. Every little bit counts.

Stephanie Watkins-Cruz is a Charlotte, North Carolina native and a youth board member at America’s Promise Alliance. Know a young person like Stephanie interested in becoming a youth leader? Encourage them to apply for our youth leadership positions by June 6.

This blog is part of the #Recommit2Kids campaign, marking the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise Alliance and calling the nation to recommit to action on behalf of children and youth. Inspired to write a letter to a young person you know? Find out more at #Letters2Kids.