Dear Members and Friends of the National Network for Youth,
Six years ago this month I began my journey with NN4Y. Together we have accomplished great things in that time. I would like to take a minute and recap for you, but first I want to share a decision I have come to. As many of you know, for the past five years I have commuted from my home in Seattle to Washington, DC on a monthly basis. I believe that the time has come for me to be more rooted in the Seattle Community. I have given the Board of Directors notice that I will be leaving the Network as of June 30th of this year.
In the past six years we have made tremendous progress as we work together to speak for the needs of runaway and homeless youth. On the policy level we have had hearings in the House and the Senate, with outstanding testimony from actors Kris “Kazi” Rolle (the Hip Hop Project) and Djimon Hounsou the star of Blood Diamond. I was also privileged to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary on the needs of these young people. From these hearings we saw the most successful reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act in many years.
We have also worked with Van Ness Feldman to gain an understanding of each states policy and practices regarding status offenders. We were able to share that information with advocacy coalitions to help make changes to the Juvenile Justice Act. We successfully advocated last year for language on the homeless youth to be included in health care reform and drafted language that went in to the final bill. We have worked with the GAO to ensure that the grant making process is fair and impartial.
We have also had a number of successful Symposiums that many of you have attended. The last two, we were fortunate enough to have high level speakers – David Plouffe and Kathleen Sebelius. We, with your help, began an Executive Leadership Institute as part of the Symposium and are in the second year of a Youth Leadership Institute.
We formed strategic partnership with the American Bar Association and the Healthy Teen Network and continued our ongoing relationships with other national member and advocacy groups. We were able to ensure that youth were represented in a special meeting by the Mayor of Denver for the Democratic National Convention.
We conducted a number of successful projects. Two of the most notable have been the Minority Executive Leadership project sponsored by FSYB, where we examined leadership in all agencies funded by FSYB and made recommendations on how to increase leadership for people of color. We did a two year project with the American Bar Association that resulted in a published book of model state statutes for homeless youth.
Recently we formed a partnership with the Healthy Teen Network for our advocacy. This partnership increases the scope of our reach and allows us to speak effectively to even more issues that impact homeless youth.
In regards to the future of the Network, through discussions with the Board of Directors, I am confident they, together with the NN4Y’s National Council on Youth Policy, will continue the agency’s strong advocacy efforts for homeless youth, focusing the work from Washington, DC where policy sponsorship is important.
My journey with NN4Y is one I will never forget. Our members provide the finest services in the United States for homeless youth. Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future. I am pursuing a number of options in Seattle that intersect with work done by the National Network. In the meantime it has been my privilege to serve as a spokesperson for your agencies and the young people they serve.
Best wishes in all you do.
Victoria A. Wagner
President and CEO