On March 10, our two youth interns led a remarkable YouthFirst Conference for Portland-area youth at the Boys & Girls Club. Abby Alvarez and Rimona Araya joined RNW as summer youth interns in July 2017 through our Youth Legacy Internship. They participated in several of our Restorative Justice trainings and then continued to research, plan, and execute a spring conference that focused on community, youth leadership, restorative justice, and equity. Aside from monthly meetings and light-touch advising, the youth procured a logo, designed the program, secured speakers, presenters and panelists, and emceed the entire day. They also secured in-kind donations from local businesses Spielman Bagels, New Seasons, and Chipotle. On the day of the event, Abby and Rimona welcomed and inspired over 60 youth attendees. The event was held at the beautiful Rockwood Boys & Girls Club on 454 SE 165th Ave in East Multnomah County/Gresham, thanks to generous program support from Imani Muhammad.

As approximately 60 youth leaders arrived, they were greeted with the program of the day, schwag, ice breakers, and an invitation to dress up for our Instagram photobooth #youthfirst.

You can download a copy of the day’s program agenda here: YouthFirst Program. The three featured workshops included:

  • Making Your Voice Heard Workshop: A student led workshop that provided teens with tools in activism. Keynote speakers shared their experiences in expressing student voice either through art or grassroots activism.

  • Restorative Justice in Schools Workshop: Resolutions Northwest RJ Coaches led small group trainings on racial equity and restorative justice in schools.

  • Social Justice Panel & Discussion: A panel of students who each engage in unique social justice work shared about the work they do and why it’s important to our communities.

We loved hearing directly from youth about what they want to see happen at their schools, with adults, and with Restorative Justice:

We are grateful to all those who contributed to the success of this event, near and far. We are floored by the power of youth voice and community in Portland!

Special thanks to our incredible youth interns, hosts, contributors, speakers, and panelists. Speakers and panelists included:

Student Voice & Restorative Justice Workshops:

  • David Goncharuk (Changing Power Structures and Effective Communication in Activism)
  • Grace Didway and Amelia Ernst (Student Voice and Gun Violence)
  • Outside the Frame: Joey Whiting
  • Stephen Fowler, spoken word poet (RNW, Verbal Escape)
  • Gabi, Maria, Stephan, Nyanga (RNW, Restorative Justice)


Catch a few highlights of the day, including Stephen Fowler speaking about his path to poetry and work with youth, activism, and art at the YouTube links below.

We don’t have a funding stream for this conference so donations – even small ones – make a big difference and help to ensure we can offer this opportunity again. If you’d like to donate to the Youth Legacy Trust to support future RNW youth interns and community leaders, click here!

If you’d like to apply for our Summer 2018 Youth Internship – or know someone who might – click here to see future updates for 2018.