#YouthBreakingBarriers goes global

United Way’s agency partner Youth Agencies Alliance (YAA) art show begins a global social media campaign to spread youth vision for a better world.

Malissa’s vision for a brighter future includes better mental health support for youth, and a ‘#StopSuicide’ hashtag is her way of sharing that hope.

“Because depression and stuff comes when you’re my age,” the 11-year-old said, adding that school bullying is an ongoing problem in her life.

Malissa was one of dozens of youth taking part in YAA’s #YouthBreakingBarriers art show – a youth-led initiative with a social media goal of engaging youth across the planet to share their wisdom and insight. The free show opened at Graffiti Gallery on Tuesday and runs until Friday, August 26.

Young people from YAA’s membership of 18 after-school and community youth agencies helped create about 150 hashtag cut-outs adorning the gallery’s walls. The art represents their vision for breaking barriers that contribute to negative outcomes in the world and for potential solutions.

Hashtags include #Listen2Youth, #SafeDrinkingWater, #CyberBullying, #StopRacism, #GetEducated, #DontRuinNature, and #StopInfluencingKidsToBecomeGangMembers.

The next few days many of the artworks, which coin their own hashtags representing the issues they focus on, will be shared on Twitter at @y_b_barriers and Instagram at youthbreakingbarriers using the #YouthBreakingBarriers hashtag.

YAA hopes the #YouthBreakingBarriers hashtag goes viral so policy-makers are exposed to the vision and solutions offered by youth.

“We want youth to join the conversation with one another,” said Jen Coverini, program coordinator at YAA.

“But we also want a wider audience to see youth have valuable insight, and worthwhile input to give us to solve social issues.”

At the show opening Tuesday Jen told dozens of youth “we believe in you guys.”

Artists from Art City, Graffiti Art Programming, and the North End Arts Centre helped guide the youth to represent their barriers and solutions.

Two giant hashtag sculptures have also been covered with hashtag messages by youth. After the art show ends on Friday they will hit the road, Jen said, showing up at public spaces throughout Winnipeg over the next couple of months.

Jen said the campaign will be “ongoing and indefinite,” and has the potential to be much more than a social media hashtag.

“I believe if you address youth issues many adult issues will be taken care of.”

YAA has information on their website – www.youthagenciesalliance.com – for other agencies and groups that want to get involved or start their own #YouthBreakingBarriers initiative. They have also reached out to organizations in other cities inviting them to join in.

The show is open Wednesday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Friday 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.