NLYS Staff Attends "Power Up!" Summit in Washington, D.C.

by Rachael Pishtek

Hey! It's me, Rachael. Typically, I am the one who is writing these blogs in third person, but since this is about myself - that seemed a little awkward. I wanted to inform you about this amazing event that I recently attended, along with this opportunity that has been afforded to me by the Ashoka Foundation. 

Let's start from the very beginning - in 2016, the Ashoka Foundation was awarded funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to pinpoint organizations and leaders in children's wellbeing and award them funding through a grant called the Children's Wellbeing Challenge. Northern Lights Youth Services applied for this grant and participated in the challenge, however, even though we made it to the very end stages, we did not receive funding.

After the challenge was complete, the Ashoka Foundation stayed in touch with Northern Lights and encouraged Lee and I to apply for this "Change Team", the next step in the Ashoka Foundation's Children's Wellbeing Initiative. Upon filling out an application, I was selected. This was a huge honor, I later found out that almost 400 agencies and organizations applied for the "Challenge", and I was selected with 21 other individuals as a Change Leader in Children's Wellbeing. 

Following my selection, our group met virtually through video chats and E-mail to begin to put together a framework for the task we were selected to work on - how can we as leaders in this field, create an environment for children to all experience wellbeing and have a strong sense of self and empowerment - while empowering their caregivers and others that work with youth. 

This self governing group then put together "Power Up!: A Summit on Children's Wellbeing", that was held in Washington D.C. on November 13th. The Ashoka Foundation selected several of these Change Leaders to deliver messages on their work and philosphies on youth empowerment in a Ted Talk style, at Howard University. At this event, we also were able to participate in engagement activities that fueled our creativity and organized networking. 

In total, I was in Washington for approximately 2 days, thanks to Ashoka who flew us out to the summit. Following the organized summit, the Change Leaders gathered to plan next steps in the initiative and brainstorm a collective goal for the group and children's wellbeing as a whole. 

This relationship with the Ashoka Foundation is a great place to be for Northern Lights Youth Services, and I am beyond honored to have received such a title. Several of the other Change Leaders have remarkable titles under their names such as: CNN Hero, Ashoka Fellow, Bush Fellow, CEO, MD, and more. I am so excited to see where this initiative takes Northern Lights!


 At the event on Monday - Howard University


 One of the activities at the Summit was a gallery walk, which features posters detailing each Change Leader's work. Here's mine! Shoutout to Ashley and Lauren who are also featured on the poster, as well as Beth Ryan Feldner who took these photos!

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Rachael Pishtek

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