“I learned that it’s important to be confident, and that’s how you command attention in the room,” said Justin Campbell, Youth Associate Leader with The Inner Harbor Project. “This is something that will help me as I continue to grow within the organization and speak at more events.” Campbell is referring to the presentation he and fellow Youth Associate Leader, Riceira Graham, gave on Thursday, January 7th at the Maryland Out of School Time Network’s annual conference (MOST Conference) held at Turf Valley Country Club in Ellicott City, Maryland. Campbell and Graham spoke about their work at IHP in a presentation titled “YPAR: Centering Youth as Central Agents of Social Change Through Action Research”
The MOST Talk, which took place in the Building 21st Century Skills in Out of School Time forum, was presented in an intimate room of approximately 40 audience members.
“It goes back to 2011, when our Executive Director, Celia Neustadt, was returning to Baltimore from college in Southern California. She went to students because they were the experts on the issues at-hand -- not principals or city officials. She taught students about research and professional skills, and told them to come up with research questions about anything important to them that might incorporate into the Inner Harbor,” said Campbell.
From there, Campbell explained, over 40 interviews were conducted with Harbor developers, Waterfront and Downtown Partnership guides, Harbor area business owners, city officials and Baltimore City residents. At the end of that summer, they unveiled their findings and developed the five initiatives the organization works on to this day.
“The research findings in 2011 showed five major areas of tension in the Harbor. Youth versus youth, youth versus officers, youth versus store owners, not having a safe and inclusive space, and not having a positive outlet,” explained Graham.
The presentation gave an overview of IHP’s five programs that offer solutions to the areas of tension: Peer Mediation, Youth Engagement Training, The Harbor Card, Code of Etiquette, and the Peace Ambassador Program. Graham works for the Peer Mediation program, while Campbell works for the Harbor Card program, and both were recently promoted to Youth Associate Leaders for the work they’ve done.
In addition to informing MOST Conference attendees on the youth-led work IHP is doing, this experience also gave our youth leaders another outlet to build their professional and public speaking skills.
“This was a positive experience and I felt important being able to talk about the work we do and represent the Project,” said Graham. “The audience seemed to be engaged and asked a lot of questions after our talk.”
The IHP youth leaders will continue to speak at events like the MOST Conference, where they are able to network with leaders of other organizations, gain exposure for The Inner Harbor Project, and build confidence in their abilities to present to a crowd about the positive work they’re doing in Baltimore.