Angel Cotto, Researcher at the Youth Action Hub
As a youth living in Hartford, I have always had to deal with many hardships. Raised by a single mother, our family struggled a lot, and as the oldest sibling, I’ve had to work harder than most people my age just to help my family to get through each day, working part-time jobs after school or on weekends. My mom is really committed to making sure we get an education, so she makes sure I also work hard in school, and I was just accepted to college. It was hard, because we moved a lot when we struggled to pay rent, and my siblings and I would sometimes have to stay with relatives or friends. But there were always people in my community going through similar problems or worse. Because of this, I’ve always felt a need to help others, to better my community and to give back. It has always given me joy to help people in need, and in Hartford there’s no lack of people who could use a helping hand.
This is why I chose to work for a place like the Youth Action Hub (YAH). YAH is a center of research and advocacy run by Dr. Heather Mosher at the Institute for Community Research. The Hub is staffed by people my age (16-24 years old) and we are trained as action researchers so that the voices of young people are included in research and policy advocacy around youth homelessness in Connecticut. YAH uses Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR), a way of studying social issues with youth who have directly experienced that issue and who are trained as co-researchers. YAH is dedicated to researching issues facing youth in need. When I joined YAH a year ago, our research focused on the barriers that youth encounter when trying to access housing or other resources. Our work helps service providers and organizations make changes in order to become more accessible to youth. This job provides me with a sense of belonging and pride knowing that I’m working with a unique group of people who are really making a difference.
This job has also shown me a possible future career path, one that fits my goal of improving my community. The Youth Action Hub has given me a love for participatory action research, where I’m able to learn about the problems people are facing and explore different solutions to those problems. I want to continue helping people in this way for the rest of my life. And with the Youth Action Hub, I already have been given the opportunity to make a name for myself and to gain the knowledge needed for this career. Because of the YAH, I know the things I’m doing now are helping people in my community now and in the future.
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