This blog is co-authored by Katy Daniels (24) and Hannah Eaglestone (19) who both fill dual roles within the Resilience Revolution. Katy is our Digital Marketing Apprentice for the Research Team and Hannah works in the Youth Engagement Team as a Sessional Peer Youth Engagement Worker. Both co-leaders of the Resilience Revolution are also experts in their field as they are able to offer an insight of what it is like to be a young person living, working and learning in today’s society.
At the beginning of March 2022, Katy and Hannah were offered the opportunity to attend a 3-day conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Society of Research on Adolescence (SRA) is made up of a community of researchers with “the goal of advancing their understanding of adolescence and enhancing the wellbeing of youth in a globalized world”. In order to achieve this goal, the SRA “aim to lead and shape scientific and public discourse on youth and adolescence and this community also aim to guide parenting, schooling, programs, and policies”. The SRA hold this conference biennially creating a platform for individuals, groups and organisations to showcase what their local area have been doing to enhance the wellbeing of young people. This opportunity allows learning to be gained whilst also sharing our own learning attained through our own work.
This conference created the perfect opportunity to learn all about the work that is being carried out across the world in order to make the world a better place for young people to live, grow up and thrive in. As well as learning from others, Katy and Hannah had the opportunity to share the work that has been implemented across Blackpool through the Resilience Revolution whilst sharing the impact that they have been able to create across their town.
Katy shares her experience of having the opportunity to attend the conference:
“As a young person who is currently completing their apprenticeship and has only been involved in the Resilience Revolution for a year, being invited to go to New Orleans and given the unique chance to attend a three-day international conference on adolescence and amplifying the voices of our future was a huge opportunity that I couldn’t pass on. I’m inviting you to reflect with me on my thoughts and feelings of my overall experience whilst in the USA and from the sessions I attended during my time at the conference.
It was such an exciting feeling being able to travel to America to represent the Resilience Revolution, and, as a latecomer to the team, it was amazing for me to see all the hard work that our co-leaders have done over the last six years to create an established project that can be sustained in parts after HeadStart funding inevitably ends.
For us to be accepted a place at the conference, we submitted an abstract detailing each piece of work we proposed to present. Once we were accepted, we had multiple meetings before committing to booking flights and accommodation as we would be traveling in such uncertain times, this gave us only three weeks to pull it together. We had to think of the ‘what if’s’. What if the travel restrictions change? What if one of us came down with Covid? Then came all the paperwork, so much paperwork. ESTA forms, risk assessments, the list goes on. However, all the stress and last-minute poster printing was worth it when we finally got to show our work on an international scale.”
Hannah who has been a co-leader of the Resilience Revolution since 2017 shares her experience of having the opportunity to attend the conference:
“Being involved in the Resilience Revolution from 2017 through my journey of starting as a young person volunteering my time to make a change for the better in my town to fulfilling a paid role continuing to make these changes across Blackpool, it was an honour to be invited to attend the SRA Biennial Conference 2022.
I am currently in my 5th year as a co-leader of the Resilience Revolution and attending this conference was an amazing opportunity for us to show all the hard work, determination and resilience individuals with a range of lived experience including young people, parents/carers, professionals and academics have implemented into the work that has been carried out across Blackpool to make the town a better place for all.
When we arrived at the first day of the conference, we were quick to realise that we had travelled the furthest to attend this event. I am extremely proud that we were given the opportunity to showcase the impact we have made through making a change within the Resilience Revolution which underpins a whole town approach. The best outcome from attending this event has been having the ability to not only tell others how beneficial co-production can be but we have in fact been able to show why it is truly so beneficial through the outcomes of our work and the research we were able to share at this event.”
Which sessions did you find the most interesting and what learning have you taken away from this conference?
To set the scene of the SRA conference 2022, on the first morning there was a speech from Ruby Bridges, a civil rights activist who was also the first African American child to be integrated into an all-white elementary school during the desegregation crisis in 1960. Ruby left the conference attendees with a message for the youth of today.
“What’s unfolding around us can be disheartening. Many young people suffer with mental health but it’s important to not allow this to get the better of us. Learn as much as you can about other people that you come into contact with, we are brought here to love one another so why wouldn’t you want to know about other people on this earth?”
Hannah reflects on the message from Ruby Bridges:
“This message is something that all young people need to hear as even in uncertain times, we need to remember to lean on one another when necessary and to maintain healthy relationships. I also think it’s great that the conference didn’t open with an academic speaking as it is important that other members of the community/organisations have opportunities to speak.”
Katy explains her role at the SRA conference:
“My role at the conference was to present at an evening poster session, which enabled other conference attendees to interact with presenters over a relaxed atmosphere and dig deep into their research. My colleague leading on the development of the poster unfortunately could not attend.
Whilst initially feeling nervous to present, and almost feeling like a deer in the headlights as the poster I was presenting was a new research area for me, I soon found what worked for me – which was just being honest. I was fortunate enough to converse with a multitude of different people, from different backgrounds, yet I found that the collective opinion on our poster was that our work was distinctive since it had been put into practice and, rather than just researching and presenting our findings, we have been successful in working with people within our community. This was a really motivating and rewarding feeling to hear that our work has inspired more researchers to take a similar approach to their future work.
Aside from presenting and supporting my co-workers in their talks, I attended many sessions that I found interesting, for example the University of Delaware did a talk on how gratitude helps personal and social wellbeing.”
Hannah talks about her experience co-presenting at the conference:
“At this conference, I fulfilled the role of bringing the perspective of a young person to the event. I was given the opportunity to present alongside one of our other co-leaders of the Resilience Revolution. I gave a presentation that was all about the work we have been doing in the Resilience Revolution and encouraging other people from all across the world to carry out similar work to what we have here in Blackpool, which we know works and has created an immensely positive impact on our young people and families across our town. During the three -day conference I was fortunate enough to be able to network with a variety of organisations who work with young people in a number of countries across the world, it was very insightful to hear about all the work that has been carried out in other areas, some being similar to the work that has inspired a change through the Resilience Revolution.”
One of the sessions that Katy and Hannah attended was the Youth Panel Q&A which was very insightful to hear the same problems we have in the UK mirror the issues in the USA from a young person’s perspective. Some of the issues that were covered in this Q&A were substance misuse, alternative routes to education, the power of youth voice and the benefit of having a youth led community. Katy and Hannah noted down some of the questions that were asked and the answers that the young people gave:
Is what you’re learning in school beneficial to what you want to do in the future?
“Yes, you need knowledge for the future.”
“No, we don’t learn how to pay taxes or how to buy a home, there is just a surge towards signing up to college.”
“We don’t need to sit in a classroom for 8 hours a day to learn some of these things.”
“Not good for the brain to sit and watch the teacher flick through slides for 100 minutes whilst we are sitting in the same chair.”
“We are so used to writing everything down from the slideshow that it feels like we are being trained like a dog.”
“It’s not always the class material, it’s the way that it’s taught.”
What holds your attention the most these days?
“Constantly worrying about keeping friends, using all my attention to keep relationships going.”
“You need to focus on yourself and your own mental health.”
“Spending time doing things I love, like listening to music, which got me through lockdown.”
“It’s important to keep up with what’s happening in the world that’s creating history.”
Does social media have a more helpful or harmful effect on you?
“I think it does more harm, you are constantly worrying about the way that you present yourself. It makes me more conscious of what I wear and makes me feel as though I should be thrifting all of my outfits. I always think about what people think about me, social media makes you transform who you are.”
“People perceive themselves as happy on social media when in reality this is not the case.”
Hannah shares her experience from attending this session:
“It was really insightful to hear from the young people in New Orleans who are trying to make a difference in their community, similar to what the young people in Blackpool are trying to achieve in the whole town approach. It was also interesting to hear that the young people in New Orleans face the same adversities as the young people in Blackpool, despite being on opposite sides of the globe.”
Katy attended a session on mindfulness based programs, here’s what she learned:
“It was an engaging session that talked us through how practicing mindfulness can guarantee changes in mood lability, anxiety and emotion suppression. Part of the focus of their work was seeing if young people with ADHD benefit from mindfulness, and their tests showed that there was a significant change in mood lability and increase in mindfulness after they did their 6 week Learn to Breathe program
I found the research study interesting. I learned how mindfulness based programs can have positive effects on self-control among youth with mood problems, academic struggles and childhood adversities, however, many of the studies in this session were repeated with very similar groups of people, e.g. people who suffer from depressive symptoms, anxiety and stress. We were shown a table which presented the sexual orientation and genders of the young people who were a part of the study, and I was shocked to see that there were no Trans feminine or masculine young people, and only one young person who identified as bisexual. It made me wonder if the results would be much different if the study included more LGBTQ+.”
My voice project
Another session that Katy and Hannah attended together was a presentation delivered by Tammy Chang and Xochitl Amaro focusing on their work that elevates youth voice across America. The idea for their work came from young people being experts of their own experience in which a form of text activism was created through the My Voice project which allows young people to have their voices heard in every state in the USA.
The My Voice project has the ability to capture the insight of invisible identities in an inexpensive way. Young people ages 14-24 are sent surveys via text message which gathers research on a number of topics that are identified as areas of development in America, with young people receiving a $1 incentive for every survey they answer. Although, it was noted that young people couldn’t pick the topics themselves.
Katy reflects on a perspective of research portrayed by Xochitl Amaro:
“Listening to Xochitl Amaro talk about how she got into research was inspiring as prior to this she thought that research was only conducted in science labs. It really makes you realise how broad research can be and that anybody can conduct research.”
The conference was a valuable opportunity for the group and lot of hard work was done. Katy and Hannah learned about how conferences are run internationally and experienced how the mental health of young people across Blackpool is similar in some ways yet also different too when compared to other parts of the world. It also became apparent how different researchers look at the same topics such as social media impact and mindfulness.
Overall recommendations are that more youth voice is needed in research, more accessible language and free places for non-academic experts and would really encourage more young people to go to conferences once the language and funding issues have been addressed.