Author: Susan Diaz, Senior Director of Member Engagement, Every Hour Counts
I am thrilled to reflect on the resounding success of the Every Hour Counts Let’s Make Waves! Conference 2023. The conference took place in the vibrant city of West Palm Beach, Florida, the home of Prime Time Palm Beach County, who is leading the way on expanding high quality out-of-school time programs in South Florida. This year’s conference was a powerful gathering of passionate individuals and organizations committed to making a lasting impact in the field of youth development. We had close to 250 attendees from 40+ communities from across the United States and Europe. Attendees hailed from California to Texas, New Hampshire and the United Kingdom, to name a few.
I began my first day in the role as the new Senior Director of Member Engagement at Every Hour Counts in the midst of interactive workshops, youth leader presentations, powerful insights and thought provoking keynote speakers. The conference was a hub for connection, collaboration, and the exchange of innovative ideas. This cross-pollination of ideas created a rich environment for forging partnerships, building alliances, and finding inspiration from one another’s successes.
Interactive workshops such as Wind Driving the Waves, Youth Voices and More Time for What Matters: Leveraging Technology to Grow a Citywide Network of Programs provided attendees with practical tools and best practices tailored to individual landscapes and communities from across the country. Speakers urged us to consider new ways of engaging and empowering young people and harnessing the power of technology in an ever-changing world.
National leaders sparked conversations that will undoubtedly shape the future of youth development. Visionary leaders, Gigi Antoni the Director, Learning and Enrichment at The Wallace Foundation and Shital Shah, Senior Advisor, Strategic Partnerships, Office of the Secretary at the US Department of Education, delivered thought-provoking speeches that challenged us to think beyond conventional approaches that deliver innovative solutions, required during these uncertain times to create a brighter future for all youth.
An additional highlight for me was the infusion of youth voice throughout the conference. Conference attendees had the opportunity to speak with youth leaders from across the country. I gained viable insights on transforming programs to incorporate youth voices. The youth stories shared demonstrated the immense potential to impact youth development and create meaningful change by centering and celebrating youth voice in our work. The Digital Vibez team of young people infused dancing and fun along the way!
As I reflect on my time at Let’s Make Waves! I am honored that I began my Every Hour Counts journey with an exceptional network of leaders to usher in my transition into my new role. I have a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to support the work that lies ahead. I’m energized to build a world where every young person has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential with this incredible network.