Rise Above Youth Summit: Summer 2023 Part 1

The Rise Above: Eliminating Stigma in Youth Mental Wellness youth summit is a collaboration between the Touchstone Foundation and The Hood Hippie Love Yourself.

This summer we are also collaborating with the YWCA Lancaster and their Center for Racial and Gender Equity.  Throughout the summer intensive, students will be challenged and encouraged to understand different perspectives when it comes to mental health. Students will also be asked to explore their creativity through different mediums of art with the YWCA Black Artist Waystation recipients. 

Lastly, students participating in the summer intensive will focus on connecting to the Lancaster City community through immersive experiences, like visiting other local organizations, educational institutions and various art spaces.

Week One

Racial Equity Institute – Day 1: Each day of our summer intensive starts with a session of the Racial Equity Institute (REI). The goal is for students to build up their knowledge of mental health implications of race, learn about resources and understand the nuances about racism, stereotypes and implicit bias. The first session engaged students in an “identity-map” activity where they wrote down all the labels and categories of their identity and then shared some traits with the rest of the group. This exercise shaped the way we think about our own identity. 

Artist workshop: Kearasten Jordan is a Black Queer Artist born and raised in Lancaster PA. They enjoy art, music, and being a problem. Their workshop focused on the self, identifying self needs/care and how to set boundaries to take care of the self. The students were able to create album covers that depicted their identity and painted records to also reflect the theme of the album cover. The self portraits reflects how we feel when we feel safe and cared for.

Racial Equity Institute – Day 2

Thank you to the YWCA REI Coordinator, Tess Feiler for leading students through the book ‘This Book is Anti-Racist’, by Tiffany Jewell. This is the foundation for the themes of the REI throughout the summer, it focuses on ideas of intersectionality, privilege, oppression and how all of these impact mental health. 

The ability to have this conversation in an open, honest, and nonjudgmental room allowed our Rise Above students to talk through the things they see in their everyday life. The conversations that were held sparked an understanding of others and how everyone faces different challenges, whether the challenge be physical, emotional, or something as typical as what bathroom someone is going to use.

Field Trip – The Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition & The Loop:

The Loop, is the name of the building that houses The Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition. Since 2019, when the organization was formed, they have been providing events and resources for LGBTQ+ people across Lancaster County. Our students were able to get a tour of the space and learn about the coalition’s current programs like HEART (Homelessness Emergency Assistance & Response Team). The students also had a discussion about Wrath Month and the origins of Pride Month. Thank you to Kearasten Jordan, who led students through a meditation ritual that helped the students learn how to connect with their inner selves and relax.

Week Two

Racial Equity Institute

Continuing with the REI, students discussed racism and how it affects their communities. They learned the ultimate equation for racism: prejudice + power = racism. The group talked about discrimination and the redlining of Lancaster. Our students had the opportunity to watch a short clip from the Netflix documentary, 13th, directed by Ava Duvernay. Our Executive Director, Anna Kennedy, stopped by during lunch to give a speech about what Touchstone Foundation does as an organization and how to get more involved/supported by us. 

Artist Workshop:

Keisha Finnie’s work explores the journey of evolution as not only an artist but as a woman of color. Interpreting her personal experiences and observations and nurturing and visualizing her determination and resilience through touch and a strong vibrant color palette.

Believe in Your Power is the workshop that Keisha developed for our Rise Above students. She led students through an exercise that helped them release some of the negative comments/thoughts they had about themselves. Keisha had the students first write those negative comments on a blank canvas, then we took a short walk to the park where Keisha spray painted over these words with the students favorite combination. This then gave students the opportunity to write, or draw, on a new canvas to show that how you perceive yourself is what really matters. 

Guest Speaker – PA Next Generation:

Our busiest day of the summit yet started off with a guest speaker, Ruby Mundok, the Executive Director of Governor Shapiro’s Advisory Commission for Next Generation Engagement! This commission is composed of young people, ages 16-26, from across the commonwealth. They are an advisory board to Governor Shapiro that have quarterly meetings throughout their 2-year terms to discuss priorities they’d like to focus on. Some of the priorities the commission is considering includes Mental health, Gun violence, Career Readiness and others like Equality and Climate Change.

Racial Equity Institute – Day 4:

Our REI portion of the day focused on unpacking racial bias. The students separated into caucuses to discuss the ways they internalize racism and how they can take steps to become anti-racist. We also had a Q&A discussion with Keisha Finnie about her artist journey, involvement in the 2020 protests and how her identity informs her art projects.

Field Trip – Pennsylvania College of Art and Design:

Located in the heart of downtown Lancaster to learn about their programs and resources! Thank you to Salina Almanzar-Oree from the PCA&D Creative Exploration department for talking to our students about all the classes offered to community members! There are classes for all ages and are affordable (scholarships are available too!). Thank you to Osmyn Oree from the PCA&D Admissions Office for giving us a tour of the college campus! Also, for outlining some of the degree programs offered at PCA&D like: Printmaking, Photography and Graphic Design!

Get Engaged

We appreciate our facilitators and student participants. We post about new opportunities to get involved on our social media and on our website.

We want to continue to grow and strengthen this program. We appreciate your support as we continue to build this program. 

Visit our Rise Above webpage to learn more about the program.