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  • The Narrative Project

Tonya Lewis Lee Discusses Importance of Listening to Young People During RYASAP’s Change Summit


April 28, 2022

CONTACT Elizabeth Gorenbergh 203.290.1252 Ashlee Niedospial 203.843.5991


Tonya Lewis Lee Discusses Importance of Listening to Young People During RYASAP’s Second Annual Catalyst for Community Change Summit


“There is a great magic when we keep our focus on our youth and our future. What I say to all of you here is this: we all have a role to play, and play your role boldly.” - Tonya Lewis Lee


Bridgeport, CT – The Regional Youth Adult Action Social Partnership (RYASAP), yesterday hosted their Second Annual Catalyst for Community Change Summit, which showcased the vital services RYASAP provides to the young people in Connecticut and highlighted the urgent need for additional fully-funded, youth-centered services and resources. Producer, author, and advocate, Tonya Lewis Lee delivered the keynote address during this culminating event of the month-long summit, which took place at the Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport. During her speech, Lewis Lee, an American producer, author, businesswoman and advocate for children, shared her own experiences and discussed the importance of listening to young people, and advocating for race and health equity, especially for women and children. "I feel the love and commitment to the community here. I am so moved, and I appreciate all the wonderful work that you are doing for your community," said keynote speaker Tonya Lewis Lee. “We know that when you take care of children, and when you take care of women, you take care of families and you take care of communities. I see that in this room.” The event kicked off with a welcome from RYASAP Executive Director Marc Donald who set the stage for the evening’s event. "We are honored to have a national leader in advocacy for children of Ms. Lewis Lee's stature to highlight the importance of our work here at RYASAP," said Marc Donald, Executive Director, RYASAP. During his opening remarks, Donald noted that RYASAP is the only organization in Connecticut that has expertise from pre-K to adulthood in mental health, social-emotional learning, and policy and advocacy all under one roof. It is the epicenter for innovation with in-house expertise in mental health, addiction, restorative practices, and youth justice. "We have seen with the rise of mental health crises, substance misuse, violence, social justice and school behavioral challenges across the United States, this work takes on greater urgency and we must act now," Donald said. The event went on to honor former RYASAP board member, Stephen P. Wright, who passed away in 2020. Wright, a Trumbull native, joined the board in 2010 and also served as Trumbull’s Board of Education chairman. Wright’s dedication to local education earned him an appointment from former Gov. Dannel Malloy to the state Department of Education school board, also in 2010. Two $1000 scholarships, inspired by Wright’s generosity and dedication to the youth of Bridgeport, were presented to Amarla Levy and Daniel Cross, two members of the RYASAP community in recognition of their hard work and personal achievements, by the Wright Family. “I’m really grateful for this opportunity to be here,” said Amarly Levy, a senior at Harding High School in Bridgeport. Amarla shared she will use her scholarship to help pay for tuition at Housatonic Community College, where she plans to major in Communication. “Thank you to Dennis from StreetSafe, and StreetSafe as a whole for giving me the opportunity and platform to turn around and be the best I can be,” shared Daniel Cross, a youth mentor at Hall Neighborhood House and member of the Bridgeport Police Reform Committee. “I just feel real blessed right now.” The Stephen P. Wright Scholarship Award is presented to an individual with lived experience who has been affiliated with one (or more) or RYASAP’s programs for a minimum of six months. The evening concluded with Lewis Lee’s keynote address. During the event, it was announced that Lewis Lee’s speech would be the first in the just-announced Stephen P. Wright Speaker Series. “The way to change hearts and minds isn't just data. Data is just numbers and there are people behind those numbers… Young people are some of our best messengers, and while sometimes there is a bit of a cultural divide that we older folks have with young people, they have so much to offer. They're looking to engage, and they're looking for a better world,” said Lewis Lee. “There is a great magic when we keep our focus on our youth and our future. What I say to all of you here is this: we all have a role to play, and play your role boldly.” The Catalyst for Community Change Summit was a four-week summit that began on April 6th with a series of free, virtual sessions focused on the themes that bind the organization together: Prevention in Action, Authentic Partnerships and Relationship Building, and Justice for All in CT. The summit concluded with Wednesday’s hybrid event. The program lasted for just over two hours and can be viewed here. Previous virtual sessions from this year’s Summit are available at

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ABOUT RYASAP Established in 1985 and serving the greater Bridgeport region, RYASAP (Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works to ensure the safe and healthy development of youth, young adults, and families by actively engaging organizations, public officials, and community leaders around issues that matter most to the community. Money raised from the Catalyst for Community Change Summit provides RYASAP’s clients with the support, resources, and opportunities to create a positive pathway to a fulfilling life.

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