Youth LEAD, formerly known as Interfaith Action, began in the late 1990s with a small interfaith youth group and is now an important national resource for the youth leadership movement.
Founding Partner in SPN: Youth LEAD is the founding partner in the Sharon Pluralism Network. Based on what was learned in the youth program, it obtained the original grant support from Third Sector New England to develop a model of pluralism among community organizations. During the next three years, Youth LEAD took the primary role in developing SPN as a network. In 2010, it stepped back to encourage a more equal collaboration among SPN partners. Youth LEAD continues to be an integral part of the network and its teens help develop and participate in many of SPN’s programs.
According Youth LEAD’s founder, Janet Penn, “Youth LEADers in Sharon facilitated many meaningful conversations with their peers and planned interesting programs to bring the community together across differences. Father Bullock always said to me, ‘Janet, we can be a living laboratory in Sharon.’ The Sharon Pluralism Network seemed like the perfect way to honor Father Bullock’s memory.”
Youth LEAD Today: Youth LEAD’s vision is to help create a generation of youth with the skills and self confidence to communicate respectfully when people are unlikely to agree, facilitate conversations that allow participants to see a human being behind a position and, organize diverse groups to address the challenges facing their communities.
Youth LEAD provides:
- a local Sharon Youth LEADership Program that brings together diverse high school students. All programs are planned and run by teens. Activities include regular gatherings for learning about one another, extensive communication, facilitation, and organizing training, as well as community service projects, international exchanges, and additional leadership opportunities.
- a Youth LEAD Communities Initiative working in Brockton to develop a Youth LEADership program with Brockton’s youth.
- an annual Teenage Identity and Diversity Conference (TIDE) held annually, most recently at Stonehill College. This three-day event planned by high school students of diverse backgrounds, engages teens in workshops, dialogues, and other activities that allow them to discover more about themselves and their own identity; learn about the beliefs and identities of others; and make their voices heard in a respectful ways.
In 2012, Youth LEAD was honored that The Pluralism Project at Harvard University recognized Youth LEAD as one of only two promising interfaith youth practices in the United States.
In 2011, Youth LEAD was featured on a Linda Ellerbee special “Free to Believe, or Not.”