“We believe in the power of individuals to effect social change.”
For nearly fifteen years, this has been the guiding vision of the Stoneleigh Foundation, as we’ve awarded Fellowships to exceptional individuals who work within and alongside youth-serving systems to catalyze change.
And yet, over the course of the last several months—as COVID-19 has ravaged communities and brought our world, and our city, to a standstill, and as the horrific death of George Floyd and the loss of countless Black lives have sparked protests over the continuing stain of racism in our society—this firmly held conviction feels more critical than ever to achieve.
How can we begin to tackle, and untangle, the interconnected traumas that have converged and culminated over the last ten days? As one of our Stoneleigh Fellows recently observed, “Layers of disadvantage can be deadly.” Today, our country is grappling with the grim realities of that wisdom.
In particular, we worry about young people—the young people at the heart of Stoneleigh’s mission—who once again must bear witness to an incalculable injustice and whose anger, fear, and passion for change need a meaningful outlet.
This is a moment rife with challenges, challenges that may in fact seem too big to tackle. Yet the Stoneleigh Foundation still believes deeply in the power of individuals to effect social change—by doing so together. We have seen our Fellows build coalitions to fight youth homelessness, stem the school-to-prison pipeline, reform the justice system, and advocate for better housing to improve youth outcomes. We’ve been inspired by youth advocates who have raised their voices to call for more transparency, accountability, and equity in City Hall, Harrisburg, and Washington, DC. While the challenges we face at this moment may feel overwhelming, history has taught us that thoughtful, committed citizens can indeed change the world.
Today, we stand in solidarity with all those who are suffering, and we wish for justice and healing in our families, our communities, and our country. We also remain profoundly committed to using our resources in collaboration with our Fellows, community, and system partners to dismantle the inequities that have undergirded our structures for too long.
We envision a society in which every young person, regardless of circumstance, has the opportunity to thrive. We must keep working together until we reach this goal.