Develop Your Voice And Speak (DYVAS)

by Erika Bailey, Intern

To be honest, when I heard that the program name was DYVAS, I was sold.  And when I learned that DYVAS is an employment program for high school girls who make a zine about social justice issues (not to mention is a clever acronym for Develop Your Voice and Speak), I could not bear to spend my summer doing anything else.  My name is Erika, and I am the DYVAS intern.
Our orientation was on the day that I returned to Seattle from Ghana, and needless to say, I was a bit jetlagged.  However, I soon forgot about all the possibly malarial mosquito bites as we began discussing the different aspects of identity.  That was eight weeks ago, and now everyone is hard at work on the zine and job preparedness curriculum. We had, and are continuing to have, guest facilitators come and lead learning in diverse areas from career development to building healthy relationships.  Job reviews and one-on-one meetings both reinforce this culture of personal and professional development.
The passion that comes with learning about institutions and social justice is consistently inspiring; one of the girls recently argued that “they’re trying to kill poor people!” when we discussed the connections between the food at grocery stores, the food EBT pays for, and diseases like diabetes and cancer. The beauty of DYVAS is that she engages in these curricula about institutions, and then immediately connects that passion and information to her personal life through the zine pieces.  After learning about the food system there were pieces on “the meal I miss most,” and after discussing institutional oppressions in neighborhoods, they wrote a piece titled “Where I’m From.”  These young women hope that their zine will help put people in their shoes and end judgement.  The framework that DYVAS gives their already passionate poetry should do just that.
We always end programming with gratitude, a moment for each person to say something that they are thankful for.  More and more frequently I hear things like“I am thankful for PV because we can be real together, unlike my other friends” and “I am thankful that I get to talk about these kinds of issues.”  I would like to say that I am thankful for your support in helping make DYVAS happen, and thus helping these young women and myself grow personally and professionally.   


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