Blog /Alameda County Youth Changing the Game
"Somebody steals your credit card and hits you for $1000 worth of charges, but you called and reported the card stolen right away. What's the maximum amount you are responsible for?"
Silence fills the room. A few guesses are shouted out. No one gets the right answer.
It may sound like a scene from a high school classroom, but today the young people are the teachers waiting patiently for a correct answer from their adult-aged students who laugh nervously around an enormous, hand-painted board game.
Created entirely by youth, the game simulates realistic situations from a youth perspective fostering conversation and learning in a fun, non-threatening format. As players move through the game they earn points while learning life skills such as today's credit lesson that has the adult players stumped and silent.
The game is the latest project of the Transitional Age Youth Initiative (TAYi), a program that serves and is operated by youth aged 16-25 who self-identify as having lived experience of mental health issues, or have been involved in the foster care or juvenile justice system.
Letty Elenes, staff member of PEERS and one of the coordinators of TAYi states that the program "gives youth in the system a voice by giving them the chance to attend national conferences like Alternatives."
The program also creates opportunities for its members to get involved in youth panels and focus groups, as well as creating training opportunities such as Wellness and Recovery Action Planning facilitation so they can move beyond being the recipient of services and have the skills to become youth peer specialists.
Funded through the California Mental Health Services Act and an Innovations grant from Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services, TAYi goes beyond just educating and involving youth in existing services, but is designed to help youth actually change the system itself.
"We're part of the solution, not the problem," says Brianna Williams, also a PEERS staff member and coordinator of TAYi.
Members develop leadership skills, receive education, give community input, create change in the mental health system and contribute to ending stigma against people with mental health issues.
The youth running the Alternatives presentation have taught the adults in the room a thing or two about credit. Embarrassed groans go around the room as Brianna reads the game card revealing how much individuals who have had their credit card stolen are responsible for.
"The answer is $50. If you report your card stolen right away, the maximum you will be held accountable for is $50."
The young adults leading the workshop smile, perhaps sensing that they aren't just creating a board game, but are poised to change the game entirely.
The TAY Initiative Workshop featured an innovative life skills board game