The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t altered EYEJ’s mission to drive social justice reform by empowering young people to advocate for change. The program is executed virtually through a program called YODJ: Youth Online Discussing Justice. Our program affords public school students the chance to meet regularly with trained professionals to engage on a wide array of practical topics in a judgment-free setting. At this time, EYEJ has a relationship with 27 schools and 5 recreation centers in Cleveland.
Youth Online Discussing Justice connects students in grades 6 through 12 with the necessary resources for day-to-day life and professionals trained in emotional learning development. Guests, including local community members, peers, and any one of EYEJ’s 900 other volunteers, meet with students in a safe, intimate setting that encourages honesty on difficult subjects. Of the over 1,600 participants in the program to date, 65 percent have reported learning about social justice issues for the first time, and 45 percent have promised to employ that new awareness in their everyday lives.
The 10-week YODJ program consists of seven weeks in discussion and three weeks in a “Reflection Event.” The most recent “Reflection Event” was a Photo Display Project. Five students impressed the public with an exhibition of photographs about toxic stress, self-esteem, body image, poverty, and Cleveland’s ongoing Digital Divide.