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  • The Narrative Project

Funder Collective Releases Report on Youth Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 15, 2022


CONTACT Mercy A. Quaye mercy@narrative-project.com 203.913.5008

 

Funder Collective Releases Report on Youth Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Highlights the Need for Engaging Youth in Decision-Making

 

Young people convey struggles with mental health, education, and

concerns with racial justice during the pandemic.

(video from press event available here)

 

New Haven, CT – A collective of grantmakers committed to youth leadership comprised of the Perrin Family Foundation, the Leever Foundation, and the Ritter Family Foundation today released Seen and Heard: Race, COVID and What Philanthropy Can Do to Support Youth, a report that compiles youth reflections from the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Focusing on what youth feel they’re not being asked, the report offers a line of sight into the impact the pandemic has had on young people’s mental and physical health, educational experiences, and interactions with issues of racial and social justice.


Sprouting from an interest to collect first-hand experiences from youth, the three foundations joined forces at the start of the pandemic and launched a large-scale call for submissions to youth throughout Connecticut. Two separate rounds of calls-for submissions in Spring and again in Fall 2020 yielded more than 500 submissions – a figure that far exceeded the funders' expectations. The overwhelming response required the funders to triple the amount originally allocated for youth submission honorariums.

“We launched this effort with a commitment to decentering adult opinion and re-centering youth experiences and perspectives on the issues at play in their own lives,” said Laura McCargar, President of the Perrin Family Foundation. “Youth are almost always an afterthought in decision making, in planning, even in circumstances wherein they stand at the center. Our hope for this report is that it illuminates young people's inherent power and brilliance and advances a collective commitment to engaging their leadership in advancing solutions for change.”


Perrin, located in New Haven, operates with the deeply held belief that youth become stronger – and communities become safer, healthier, and more just – when young people’s voices are valued, respected, and engaged as equals in the decision-making processes that impact their lives and communities.


More than 500 young people responded to the request for submissions while providing basic demographic data. All young people were allowed to self-identify, particularly with respect to race and ethnicity. As such, the data presented uses aggregated estimates based on the information provided.


“Young people shared incredibly emotional and moving stories and art of both hope and deep despair. As a part of this project, we were dedicated to supporting the development and leadership of young people, and we believe this report offers an example of how grantmakers can tailor their giving to meet the needs of our most vulnerable stakeholders,” said Saran White, CEO of the Leever Foundation based in Waterbury. “It’s no secret our city has unique challenges that require equally unique solutions. Before we can even begin to talk about those solutions, we have to be deeply engaged with the people who will be impacted the most. For us, that’s young people.”




Through their submissions, young people discussed the impact COVID-19 had on their educational experiences, futures, mental and physical health, isolation, income, and housing insecurity, along with their analyses of the academic structures to support them. For many, the deaths of George Floyd, Amaud Aubery, and Breonna Taylor compounded the already unprecedentedly difficult and isolating circumstances brought on by the pandemic.


“Our organization has deep roots in the Norwalk community and while I could imagine what young people were going through, these submissions revealed a reality that most people would be humbled to interact with,” said Kate Ritter, Executive Director of the Ritter Family Foundation. “Grantmakers hold so much power with our decisions to invest in one issue or another. That’s why it’s imperative for us to pause, listen, and partner with the right organizations to ensure that change is made the way it’s most needed.”


Respondents were young people between the ages of 13 and 24, the majority of whom self-identified as Latinx/Hispanic, Black, and white with many identifying as AAPI, multiracial, or declining to answer. A large sum of the respondents resided in Fairfield, New Haven, and Hartford Counties.

Learn more about the project at SeenAndHeardReport.com

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About Perrin Family Foundation The Perrin Family Foundation partners with organizations based in under-resourced communities across Connecticut in order to create environments that support youth as leaders of social change.


About Ritter Family Foundation The Ritter Family Foundation believes every child has the right to a quality education and social, emotional and physical support and learning, regardless of the zip code in which he or she is born. To that end, we invest in and partner with organizations that work to improve the opportunity, access and quality of services for children and families in under-resourced communities.


About Leever Foundation The Leever Foundation creates opportunities for people, especially children, in greater Waterbury to fulfill their potential and become productive members of society.


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