by EYEJ: Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice

EYEJ drives social justice reform by empowering young people to advocate for change. This mission of empowerment is achieved through customized discussions with youth about justice issues that impact their lives and a Youth Council that fosters the confidence, knowledge, and skills needed to advocate for positive social change. Since 2013, over 1,600 young people — including Diamond Bottoson — have participated in justice discussions. Diamond participated in a discussion as a sixth grader and then became a member of the Youth Council as a tenth grader. As a twelfth grade student at John Hay, Diamond was recently hired as the Lead for the EYEJ Youth Council. 

She is what EYEJ calls a changemaker and she describes this role in the following way: “Being a changemaker means that I take the necessary actionable steps to spread awareness, prevent, or stop something. Whatever that something is depends on the person or people I’m impacting. If I can help one person change their life or choices from bad to good, ignorant to knowledgeable, then I’ve completed my duty of being a changemaker.” 

Diamond and other Youth Council members are predominantly from Cleveland and East Cleveland, and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic of racial injustice as well as the health and economic inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. The Council also includes college students from diverse backgrounds — several of whom are students at Case Western Reserve University — who are committed to creating a more equitable and inclusive world. EYEJ Youth Council previously focused on the issues of toxic stress and police/youth relations and are currently focused on addressing the lack of access to reliable broadband service that exists in lower-income neighborhoods in Cleveland and throughout the country. 

The #ConnectingCleveland campaign is about both digital connectivity and connecting our community, which is too often divided by age, gender, and race. Through this campaign, we will raise $100,000 by January 31st to: 

  • Reach more young people through our YODJ: Youth Online Discussing Justice program and enable us to have greater impact on members of our Youth Council by engaging with them more often. 

  • Enhance our staffing, technology, and marketing to enable EYEJ to build on its foundation and sustain its impact for years to come. 

  • Provide members of our Youth Council with stipends that enable them to continue investing their time in EYEJ programming. 

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