2023 Summer Social Justice Academy Recap

The Next Generation Pushing Towards Building a Better Future; Youth Mentoring Collaborative’s 2023 Summer Social Justice Academy

From July 10 to July 27, 2023, Youth Mentoring Collaborative (YMC) hosted its 2023 Summer Social Justice Academy with sixteen high school students participating in this inaugural summer learning opportunity.

The Summer Social Justice Academy (SSJA) is an intensive three-week paid hybrid summer experience for youth to explore how to respond to some of society’s most pressing issues impacting them. This year’s participants developed individual presentations of learning to reflect on the content as well as established group projects geared towards addressing issues in their respective communities.

"Each participant in the academy came to further their knowledge of social justice and make an impact on their community. It was amazing to see how each person became more comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions from week to week,” says Kanalyn Jackson, YMC Vice President of Youth Programs & Organizational Culture. “By the end of the academy, it was clear that the students had not only achieved their learning goals, but also had a clearer understanding of how they can be change agents in their communities."

The SSJA curriculum integrated engaging activities, group discussions, and interactive lectures that focused on several topics including mental wellness, the history of youth-led social movements, public speaking, education barriers, youth advocacy, economic justice, intersectionality, and more.

In addition to engaging in peer learning, the SSJA participants completed a group project which was based on three pathways; a social justice podcast, developing content for the 2023 Carolinas Youth Mentoring Symposium (CYMS) Youth Track, and developing a community-based movement. The Podcast group conducted interviews with members of their communities to discuss the impact of gun violence, with the hope of developing potential solutions for this critical issue. The CYMS Youth Track group explored symposium topics for youth to uncover their gifts and purpose, including sessions on entrepreneurship, relational networking, non-linear career paths, and addressing gender bias in the workplace. The community-based movement group designed a proposal for a youth-led virtual town hall to address the pervasive issue of gun violence, including inviting elected officials and other decision-makers to discuss tangible actions that move towards solutions.

The SSJA concluded on July 27th with a graduation ceremony. Family and friends were invited for fellowship and to see participants present their group projects. YMC staff is still actively connecting with the participants to assist with their group projects.

“This generation, comprised of Gen Z's, is poised to engage with the world differently; to some degree more direct, head on, with more urgency than generations before them. They've ‘seen some things’ as the old folks say” said Barbara Jessie-Black, YMC Board Chair. “They are used to instant information, engagement across multiple platforms, which makes them a force to be reckoned with.”

2023 Summer Social Justice Academy Participants

Below are the 2023 Summer Social Justice Academy participants:


Brennan F.

New Bern High School

Brennan Forbes is an incoming 9th-grade student at New Bern High School. Born in Raleigh, NC, and raised in the vibrant community of New Bern, he has embraced the values of his upbringing and developed a genuine passion for making a positive impact on his surroundings.

With a deep-rooted love for his church and spirituality, Brennan finds solace and inspiration in his faith. He understands the importance of compassion, empathy, and equality, which has fueled his desire to pursue social justice.

Beyond his spiritual pursuits, Brennan thrives in the great outdoors. Whether it's exploring nature trails, playing basketball with friends, or channeling his discipline through karate, he finds joy in the physical and mental challenges that outdoor activities provide.

However, Brennan is not just about personal pursuits; he values the power of community and the bonds of friendship. He enjoys spending quality time with his friends, sharing laughter, and creating memorable experiences together.

Excited about the Summer Social Justice Academy experience, Brennan eagerly anticipates the opportunity to expand his knowledge and deepen his understanding of social issues. He believes that education is a catalyst for change and is determined to bring back the valuable insights he gains to his beloved New Bern community.

With his vibrant spirit, genuine curiosity, and dedication to personal growth, Brennan is poised to make a significant difference in his community and beyond.



Cayden M.

Central Cabarrus High School

Cayden Allen Miller was born September 4, 2009, in Alexandria, Virginia to Cory and Adrain Miller. He moved to Charlotte NC in his 7th grade year where he has continued to excel in his academics. Cayden, the youngest of his siblings, has always been the helper of the family. He is passionate and aware about inequality, diversity and inclusion. Cayden also had to overcome his own disability because he was diagnosed with dyslexia in 3rd grade.

Cayden graduated from CC Griffin M.S. and he received the 8th grade award for the highest math and science grade in his class. Cayden scored a 5 on his EOG's for Science & Math, which is college & career ready/superior command. In his free time, he likes to play games on his Xbox. Cayden, a member of the Sigma Beta Club, spends time coding & creating objects on his 3-D printer. Cayden was afforded the opportunity during his 8th grader year to participate in a Digi-bridge 3-D program where he created glasses for Charlotte Hornets Kelly Oubre Jr. Class of 2027.

Cayden is a rising 9th grader attending Central Cabarrus High School and was accepted in the STEM Honors program where he will be on the Robotics & Gaming Track.



Hemanth D.

Panther Creek High School

Hemanth is a high schooler who's all about the violin, debate, and making a difference. He's excited to participate in a summer social justice program that perfectly aligns with his passions.

When he picks up his violin, magic happens. It's his escape, his way of expressing emotions that words fail to capture. From classical compositions to contemporary melodies, he loses himself in the strings and lets the music tell stories that touch hearts.

But he's not just about the music. He thrives on the thrill of debate, relishing the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking discussions and challenge perspectives. He loves exploring different viewpoints, seeking understanding, and defending his beliefs with passion and reason.

He enjoys collaborating with fellow change makers, learning from experienced mentors, and working on projects that tackle crucial social issues. He believes that, together, we can make the world a better place, one note and one argument at a time.



Jaiden M.

Belmont High School

Bio coming soon!







Julissa A.

J.D. Clement Early College High School

Julissa Aguilar Galdamez is a rising senior at JD Clement Early College. She enjoys reading, writing poetry, listening to music, and watching true crime movies and shows. Julissa intends on majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish. She wants to pursue this field of study because she believe it will help me do the most good in my community. As a Hispanic, she is aware of the stigma associated with mental illness and mental illness treatment. Her goal is to help break this stigma and make mental health resources more accessible to Hispanic and other minoritized communities.




Kaumudi C.

Panther Creek High School

Kaumudi Chimmiri is a rising Junior in high school. She was born in the United States and was raised in India, Canada, and the States. For as long as she can remember, she's always been interested in becoming a social worker who specializes in helping out families in need, mentoring, and the concept of social justice intrigues her. She first became passionate about mentoring after watching Tim Urban's TED talk, "Why you procrastinate—and how to still get things done". Although this talk had nothing to do with her interest in social justice, she was still impressed by the way the speaker managed to highlight his main point in a lighthearted and amusing manner while still staying on topic and conveying what he had in mind.

To Kaumudi, having an opportunity to participate in the Summer Social Justice Academy means that later on she can have the confidence to choose a career in political science and continue helping families who may need her support.



Kayla S.

Durham School of the Arts

Kayla Scales-Mckoy is a current Sophomore at Durham School of the Arts. She enjoys dancing and meeting new people. One of her passions is speaking out about about gun violence, as she believes that everyone deserves the right to enjoy their youth and feel safe when they are at school or in their community.






Naki J.

West Cabarrus High School

Bio coming soon!








Nehemiah P.

Wake Forest High School

Nehemiah Desmond Powell grew up in Skokie, Illinois. Since a young age, Nehemiah has been moving back and forth from to new homes. Despite constantly moving, Nehemiah had found a passion for playing music and matured to want to help his friends and family.

Nehemiah came to North Carolina last year because of his mother's promotion. Moving was not easy for him; he had to leave his friends and most of his family behind. After five months, Nehemiah became unhoused after his mother lost her job due to "reconstruction." Nehemiah was overwhelmed and lost interest in doing things he loved. But with the help of the people in his community, Nehemiah found more things to love about his new home.

After moving to North Carolina, Nehemiah is a rising senior at Wake Forest High School. Nehemiah is in the Wake Forest High School band and the National Acheiver Society. Nehemiah is understanding more instruments and wants to begin a career in Music Composition. Wanting to give thanks to his new community, Nehemiah volunteers at toy drives and community events to help whoever he can. Nehemiah is proud to join the Summer Social Justice Academy and learn to benefit his community.



Nived B.

Panther Creek High School

Nived Bijesh is a rising Junior who has a deep passion for equality, empathy and societal transformation. He has always had a flare to deepen his understanding about social issues and create a meaningful change in the world. Critical thinking and problem solving have always been his strengths and Nived intends on sharpening them by participating in the Summer Social Justice Academy.

Nived moved to North Carolina last year and has always wanted to learn more on the prominent social issues and how to solve them; he enjoys learning from the unique perspectives of others.



Paris B.

Porter Ridge High School

Paris Bredy is 15 years old and was born in Hollywood, Florida. She attends Porter Ridge High School, in Indian Trail NC and wants to major in Political Science. Over the past few years she has participated in several extracurricular activities to lead her down the path of the career she wants to pursue.

Paris has had the opportunity to participate in the oratorical contest for Jack & Jill of America; she was a part of the Cooper City Teen Council; and she is a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Archonettes group. This group focuses on sisterly-love, leadership, and scholarship.

In middle school, Paris was the Social Activities Director in the Student Council. She was also in the law program and successfully passed a mock bar exam. Paris is also a member of her school's softball team, marching band, and symphonic band.

Paris is most proud of her involvement in UMOJA, a club for black students who want to have their voices heard. UMOJA created "Mahogany Pride," a newsletter that brings awareness to black-excellence.

Given her passions and interests, Paris looks forward to participating in the academy.



Sean M.

Athens Drive High School

Sean McNair is the son of Sabrena Robinson and Patrick McNair. He is a rising senior at Athens Drive High School. At the age of 14, Sean became an Eagle Scout and has spent the last 3 years mentoring and leading other young boys as they progress through the journey of becoming an Eagle Scout. Sean is an active member of Oak City Baptist Church where he serves on the technology team assisting with producing the live church service each week.

In his spare time, Sean enjoys creating beats, producing music, playing basketball, and gaming. Also the founder and owner of XZalt Games, upon graduation, Sean plans on attending college to study Simulation and Game Development.



Sharmelle D.

Panther Creek High School

Sharmelle Das is 15 years old and attends Panther Creek High School. She loves to sing, go biking, dance, and spend time with her family and friends. She is excited to participate in the Summer Social Justice Academy because she is passionate about creating a more equitable and just society and believes that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. Sharmelle is always looking for ways to get involved in my community.

In her free time, Sharmelle enjoys reading about social issues and staying informed about current events. She looks forward to working alongside others in pursuit of a more just society.



Sidney S.

Jordan High School

Bio coming soon!








Trinity R.

Hillside High School

Trinity Richardson is proud to participate in the Summer Social Justice Academy. She is an International Baccalaureate rising senior at Hillside High School. She has maintained academic excellence while also being involved in her community.

She is the Senior Class Vice President and a 2023 award recipient from Hillside High School's Student Council, a member of Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society, Rho Kappa Honor Society, Fundraising Committee Chairperson for W.E.B. DuBois Honor Society and also a member of the National Honor Society. Outside of school she has volunteered, serving at the Durham Diaper
Bank, the Durham Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.

While maintaining her commitments, she thoroughly enjoys spending time with my family and friends and working part time at Chick-Fil-A. Upon graduating, she plans on attending Spelman College with the goal of eventually attending law school.



Vianey G.

City of Medicine Academy

Vianey Dominguez Gomez is 15 years old and a first generation immigrant student at The City of Medicine Academy in Durham NC. She is one of the middle children in a family of eight; she has five siblings whose ages range from 5-22 years old. She wants to be a registered nurse after high school, and later gain a bachelors in criminal justice to become a prosecution attorney.

Vianey wants to make her parents proud; they have given everything to meet the wants and needs of herself and her siblings. Vianey sees her parents as her number one support. They have pushed her to be the best version of herself that she can be. Vianey will strive and she refuses to give up; she knows what it takes to succeed and believes she has it inside of her.

She participates in the Scholars to College program with the Emily K Center in Durham. She also attends the teen court program with the Durham County Courthouse. Vianey visited Meredith College in Raleigh for a weekend to explore forensic science with the Chick-Tech stem program. She also attends church in Durham and has participated with their radio station multiple times.

Vianey has a lot of support from people in her community; she wants to make them proud and she thanks them for all the love and support they have given her.

Vianey Domínguez Gómez tiene 15 años y es estudiante inmigrante de primera generación en la Academia de la Ciudad de Medicina en Durham NC. Ella es una de las hijas del medio en una familia de ocho; tiene cinco hermanos cuyas edades oscilan entre los 5 y los 22 años. Quiere ser enfermera registrada después de la escuela secundaria y luego obtener una licenciatura en justicia penal para convertirse en abogada de la acusación.

Vianey quiere enorgullecer a sus padres; han dado todo para satisfacer los deseos y necesidades de ella y sus hermanos. Vianey ve a sus padres como su apoyo número uno. La han empujado a ser la mejor versión de sí misma que puede ser. Vianey se esforzará y ella se niega a rendirse; ella sabe lo que se necesita para tener éxito y cree que lo tiene dentro de ella.

Participa en el programa Scholars to College con el Emily K Center en Durham. Ella también asiste al programa de la corte para adolescentes con el juzgado del condado de Durham. Vianey visitó Meredith College en Raleigh durante un fin de semana para explorar la ciencia forense con el programa de tallos Chick-Tech. Ella también asiste a la iglesia en Durham y ha participado en su estación de radio varias veces.

Vianey tiene mucho apoyo de la gente de su comunidad; quiere enorgullecerlos y les agradece todo el amor y apoyo que le han brindado.

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