I am very privileged to have been part of the founding team for the Pinotage Youth Development Academy. It was my first job in the youth development sector and I credit that experience as key building blocks for what I would go on to do with my career in working with young people. My favourite thing about the Academy is how they view young people. From the very beginning we adopted the following principles:
Every young person entering the Academy already has everything they need to live out their full potential and be successful. They just need an opportunity and someone who is willing to walk that journey with them.
It was our commitment that the Academy would be a space where young people feel safe, supported and valued even as they navigate this grossly unequal system that we live in. This is demonstrated in the way the Academy is run as well as who the Academy partners with.
We would have high expectations of our students and we would create the type of environment that would enable them to meet those expectations. In the end they would know what it means to show up as their best selves for themselves.
The programme would be designed so that every student could meet themselves and understand what makes them unique and amazing in this world. They would also leave with the practical skills and competencies that would enable them to access economic opportunities and set themselves up on a trajectory for success.
Working from these principles have allowed us to see young people grow their confidence, expecting more of themselves and others while moving in the world with the goal of creating a better life for themselves and their families. It has been one of my greatest joys to see how PYDA graduates have taken what they Academy has given them and take it beyond what we could have imagined back in 2013. Our graduates created a footprint in the local industry, they are working all over the world, studying further, starting their own brands and truly living out the PYDA values of being bold and courageous. These young people are a source of hope for others in their communities and they are shining a light on what else is possible.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the state of youth unemployment in our country and I’d be the first to tell you that we have a long way to go. The Academy is a constant reminder of why we must keep going and it continues to be a source of hope for the future of young people in South Africa. I look forward to attending many more graduations and seeing even more young people launched into economic opportunity.
Written by Juanitill Pettus (Youth Development Professional and PYDA Board Member)