SFU Community-Engaged Research discusses inclusivity among youth

The workshop featured Youth Justice Lab members and looked to tackle and decolonization of public education


Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer 

SFU Community-Engaged Research hosted “Holding space vs. making space: building youth-led community belonging.” The workshop aimed to examined inclusivity and platforming marginalized youth in community-centred research. It featured four speakers who discussed their experiences piloting the Youth Justice Lab and what it taught them. 

Over this six-week virtual lab, high school members conducted open conversations exploring decolonization, racial equity, and intergenerational activism. Acting as an inclusive space for students to learn about social issues, the project was made in partnership with the SFU Centre for Restorative Justice  and North Shore Restorative Justice Society (NSRJS). 

“Our goal, in coming to this new justice lab, was to foster meaningful youth engagement opportunities,” said Anne-Marie Parent, program manager of the Restorative Justice in Education Initiative.

Undergraduate student Emma Mendez said her group focused on decolonizing high school curriculums. This experience inspired her to continue working on social justice projects with NSRJS. “It really empowered me and transformed the way I saw community. It stressed the importance of community in the sense of fostering connections, respect, and accountability,” she said.

Mendez found the Youth Justice Lab easily accessible to those wanting to participate because it was free and only required participants to fill out an application form. She said the lab could improve on inclusivity in areas of internet access, closed captioning, and accomodation for people whose second language is English. 

“Not everyone has access to stable Wi-Fi or technology [ . . . ] I think we would need to bring people from these communities, and actually have a wider conversation about what their needs are,” she said.

According to Parent, it is also important that Youth Justice Lab fosters inclusivity by having educational conversations that decentre whiteness. She said they can do this by being intentional about platforming the voices of people with diverse lived experiences.

Youth advisory member Graham Best said the group of students created a set of community guidelines for constructive discussions. 

“For me, coming to this set of community agreements really helps the space to feel safe,” he explained, as it opens up discussion and encourages participants to learn about subjects such as income equality, poverty, and mental health support networks.

Looking forward to creating a second Youth Justice Lab, youth advisory member Graham Best aims to continue his process of learning and unlearning to create an equitable future.

Learn more about the Youth Justice Lab and their initiatives here.