BRIDGES Debuts The Youth Action Storytelling Project: A National Tool For Youth Leadership

Posted by knetzler on Sep 12, 2018

“Youth have always been the catalyst for change. Real change can happen when we get out of our own way, stop trying to be so right as adults, stop trying to act like we have it all figured out, and let them do what they were born to do, which is transform the world.”

—Erica, 25, Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!), Charlotte, NC

In its 30th year of youth leadership development work in Memphis, BRIDGES USA has published a new online platform, the Youth Action Storytelling Project, to serve as a national resource for individuals and organizations working to promote youth-led social change. The website,, features compelling video interviews, brief articles, and a full audio archive showcasing the experiences of diverse youth leaders and their adult allies from across the United States. 

The project was spearheaded by Dana Wilson, Vice President of Bridge Builders, and Becca Folkes-Lallo, former Bridge Builder and graduate of White Station High School and freshman at Rhodes College. Over the course of three months, they and their videographer, local filmmaker Matteo Servente, traveled to five cities and interviewed 30 individuals from eight organizations.

Wilson and Folkes-Lallo became interested in amplifying the stories of youth activists after the Bridge Builders Youth Action Summit, a national gathering of 200 youth and adults from more than 50 organizations across the U.S. that took place in February 2018 at the Halloran Centre and Jim Boyd BRIDGES Center.

“One of the best things that happened at the Youth Action Summit was that youth leaders from different parts of the country working on different issues were able to share their experiences. It was their stories that stuck with attendees,” says Wilson. “So we decided to make a tool based on youths’ stories.”

“We wanted to do something that was more accessible than the current body of research on youth-led social change and activism, so we committed to using video and a blog format,” Folkes-Lallo adds.

However, the team also followed a rigorous data collection and analysis method, designed with the support and coaching of Rhodes College Urban Studies professor Elizabeth Thomas. Other local experts like Joann Self Selvidge of True Story Pictures and Kim Loyd, a local film producer and editor, supported the project as well.

The Youth Action Storytelling Project is an example of what’s possible when youth and adults collaborate. “I learned that if you set high expectations for youth, they will reach them. I saw that at the organizations we visited, and I felt it working on this project,” says Folkes-Lallo.