A major University of Arizona initiative focusing on youth sexuality, health and rights is entering its second phase with a heavier emphasis on connecting local community-based, youth-serving organizations to foster collaboration and create more spaces for youth voices and action.
The Crossroads Collaborative, launched at UA earlier this year, has taken on several new UA graduate student scholars and just announced year-long partnerships with three community organizations. The collaborative also is supporting a June 24 YWCA Tucson public event involving youth in art and activism.
Funded with a two-year $730,000 Ford Foundation grant, the collaborative is providing about $50,000 to three youth-serving organizations in Tucson to continue or initiate programs for and with youth around issues of health, sexuality and rights.
"This is a way for the University to have a role in continuing and sustaining these wonderful programs," said Stephen T. Russell, the UA's Fitch Nesbitt Endowed Chair.
Russell, who also directs the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth, and Families, is leading the collaborative with UA English department faculty member Adela C. Licona.
"We have been able to use the parameters of our grant to help fine tune projects and to shape others," said Licona, a UA assistant professor of rhetoric and a documentary filmmaker.
In addition to funding, Licona and Russell, along with UA graduate student Londie Martin – one of six of the Crossroads Scholars – would be offering their expertise, consultation and planning support to each of the organizations.
"It is a perfect fit and is exciting for us to call on the principles of action research to collaborate with youth-serving organizations to broaden work that is ongoing for them, or that they want to initiate and accomplish," Licona added.
Licona and Russell said the newly funded projects are closely aligned with the collaborative's goals and interests and is part of an effort to help organizations improve strategies to inform and better support youth around the important issues affecting them.
Those being funded and supported through the Crossroads Collaborative are:
- YWCA Tucson's Nuestra Voz Racial Justice Program targets the Latino/a youth, aiding them in efforts to counter prejudice and intolerance. The program is designed to build youth empowerment and cultivate youth voice at the intersections of racial justice and gender/sexuality justice.
- Kore Press: "Zone Zero: Sex, Text & The Activist Body" is an eight-week-long event with one dozen workshops exploring the creative use of language and also the body's role in activism.
- Wingspan's Eon Youth Program will work with the Crossroads Collaborative to create a community-wide event enabling youth to share their life experiences with particular regard to health, sexuality and rights.
"Each of these projects expressed a commitment to ongoing good works in the community and, importantly, each have a long-standing commitment to local youth," Licona said.
Licona also said that with regard to youth health, sexuality and rights, each program – like the collaborative – has worked to help youth and young adults cultivate a space in the public realm to address issues of interest and importance to youth.
She also noted a long-range plan to design a Web-based digital mapping project to serve as a resource for youth and youth-serving organizations about ways to get engaged and to stay informed about important topics. Licona also envisions the project as an online space for active and informed coalition.
"We want to change the conversation, not from above," Licona said, "but by listening and being informed by youth."