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Our Vision for Amplifying Youth Voices in North Carolina


By Kyle Reece, Youth Training Coordinator

Young people have the right to be heard is a statement that has never been more profound than right now. As the world is coming out of a global pandemic, mental health is a topic of discussion more than ever. Although advocacy is the proven catalyst to change, the youth empowerment movement still has a long way to go. While self-advocacy opportunities for youth are on the rise, there is still the inspiration to raise mental health awareness, promote positive youth development, and train youth in independent living and self-advocacy.

UNC-Greensboro’s Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships’ new program, NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified, has the perfect opportunity to provide youth with training and skills that will allow them to utilize their own lived experience to affect positive change in their own lives and their communities. We will also provide Youth Support Partners the support needed to work with youth hands-on and offer the technical assistance necessary to ensure youth are fully supported and given opportunities for advocacy.

We know the importance of mental health awareness and youth advocacy. Still, we must also provide opportunities for youth to get involved and provide their own lived experience in these efforts. The efforts will be achieved in various ways. First, it’s vital to ensure youth are considered equal partners in all aspects of our work. This starts with empowering youth through self-advocacy training, compelling storytelling, youth advisory councils, and speaking opportunities. We show them respect by encouraging young people to speak up for themselves and their peers. Listening and creating opportunities for their voices to affect meaningful change in the communities, systems, and services they are involved in results in positive changes and ensures positive growth in the youth we serve.

 As important as it is to equip youth with the skills necessary to succeed, it is equally imperative to train and support those who work with youth. We ensure that young people have the support required to grow as they navigate mental and behavioral health services and systems by providing technical assistance and guidance to Youth Support Partners. In a time when youth need the most support, it is essential to ensure that their Support Partners have the tools and skills necessary to empower and support them as they navigate these systems and encourage them to advocate for themselves and others. We are maximizing the potential for positive growth for the youth we serve. 

 NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified strives to ensure that youth are supported through peer support, advocacy training, and opportunities for their voices to be discovered. By focusing on the training, technical assistance, and community partnerships necessary to provide youth with opportunities to be treated as equal partners and utilize their lived experiences in meaningful ways, we will affect positive change in their own lives. We know that we will successfully empower young people to meet their full potential. In this unique time, when change, advocacy, and mental health awareness are imperative, we must never forget that young people have the right to be heard!

Hear more from Kyle below:

Our Plans for Supporting Family Partners in North Carolina

By Frederick Douglas, Family Training Coordinator

Hi, I am Frederick Douglas, a Family Partner and a Nationally Certified Family Peer Specialist. I have been providing support to families for over 25 years. I currently serve as the Family Training Coordinator with North Carolina Youth and Family Voices Amplified, the new training and education program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

My new position supports three critical areas in implementing the Family Partner Role. The first area that my position supports is authenticity, which validates the perspective of youth and families who face behavioral and mental health challenges. It is essential to provide training and technical assistance to parents and caregivers interested in serving as Family Partners. It is equally crucial that the right applicant possesses skills in navigating the service delivery system. It is also vital for Family Partners to have the ability to articulate the lessons learned from their own lived experience. The ability to express their own lived experience creates space for supporting and sharing their lived experience with other parents and caregivers of children, youth, or emerging adults experiencing behavioral and mental health challenges.

The second area of my position is to identify training needs to support the effective implementation of the family partner role and to provide technical assistance to family partners in completing the certification process. Additionally, it is essential to establish the position by educating providers and community partners in understanding the value and significance of including family voice in decision-making around service delivery.

Lastly, my position is also to share best practices, which involves educating family partners, providers and the local communities in the System of Care core values and principles. One of our many goals is to create opportunities for families, agencies, and community partners to build family-driven, collaborative, relationships, and partnerships, across the state of North Carolina.

NC Voices Amplified looks forward to partnering with children, youth, families, and community partners at the local, regional, and state levels to carry out this work! We invite you to stay connected with us through our website and other social media outlets. 

Hear more from Fred below:


Announcing the NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified Program at UNCG: About our Vision to Connect Youth and Families with Critical Mental Health Peer Support

Children and teenagers in the United States are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. In October 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association banded together to issue a declaration of a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health. Shortly thereafter in December, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an Advisory on the Youth Mental Health Crisis and how it has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Behind all of the headlines and statistics on the mental health crisis among children and youth in the U.S. are the individual children, adolescents, and young adults who face mental health challenges, along with their parents and caregivers. Many of these youth and parents feel lost and overwhelmed when it comes to seeking services and other resources to foster positive mental health and support youth facing mental health crises. When navigating these services and systems, many families and youth find added comfort and support if they can connect with others who have had similar experiences. 

With collaboration and funding support from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Well-Being, the UNC Greensboro Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships (CYFCP) is launching the NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified Program. NC Voices Amplified will provide training, technical assistance, and other resources for a growing workforce of Family and Youth Peer Support Providers across North Carolina. 

“We are thrilled to partner with UNCG on this program, which addresses two priority areas for NCDHHS – workforce development and increased access to mental health services for children and youth,” said Yvonne Copeland, Director of the NCDHHS Division of Child and Family Well-Being. “This partnership elevates those with lived experience, who are able to engage and empower children and young people while alleviating stigma. Youth peer support providers are an important and needed resource as we work together to address the youth mental health crisis.”

UNCG’s program will build upon a growing movement in North Carolina and nationally to empower youth and family voice and the engagement of individuals with lived experiences to guide mental health and other related systems and services for children, youth, and families. According to Frederick Douglas, who is the Family Training Coordinator for NC Voices Amplified, “The expectation that North Carolina should value and include the voices of the children, youth, and families who face mental health challenges in service delivery decisions is not new in our state. In the 1980s, initially, families had to fight to secure a place at the decision-making table, and typically they served in a volunteer advisory capacity. Families began to share a wealth of knowledge about how to effectively meet their needs. They shared what works and doesn’t work in classrooms, with providers, with legislators and community partners. 

“In the early 1990’s, some families were paid a small stipend to cover childcare costs, travel-related expenses, and income lost because of missing work when participating in System of Care activities. Even before the data were collected to provide evidence of the value of youth and family voice, the early pioneers in this movement knew the value they were bringing to systems and services, and they began to advocate for the sustainability of Youth and Family Partner Peer Support. They understood that Youth and Family Partners supported families, parents, and youth with mental health needs in a unique and authentic way and were a key component to the implementation of the system of care core values and principles. In the later 1990s, as Family Partners became more experienced and skilled, and as organizations saw firsthand the value of ongoing family participation, some agencies hired family members or secured their services through contracts. In 2013, there was a Joint Bulletin from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stating the efficacy of peer support services and family-driven care. The Joint Bulletin encouraged states across the U.S. to use Medicaid dollars to fund such services. 

“In addition to this national recognition of the value of Youth and Family Partners, some of the greatest evidence of the impact of this type of peer support comes from the impacted youth and family members themselves. As one recent parent I worked with told me, ‘My Family Partner is different from the other people who try to help me. I can talk to her and she listens and really understands because she has had some of the same experiences I have.’”

Family Peer Support Providers (often referred to as Family Partners) have specialized training to equip them to bring their own lived experiences to offer critical support to other parents and caregivers as they navigate mental health services for their children. “Navigating the service systems can be very scary and difficult for families. Being able to share your experience and help other families avoid the barriers as much as possible allows for more youth and families receiving services. When the parents/caregivers go through these trainings, the trainers help empower them to move forward and to share their knowledge and skills with other parents/caregivers. This is so important because this is not a textbook, this is lived experience, and families tend to relate to other families that have walked their walk. They trust because they have experienced similar situations which allows them to take that chance and try services based off of the support they receive from the Family Partner,” said Chandrika Brown, the program’s Collaboration Coordinator. 

Youth Peer Support Partners can be equally valuable in engaging youth in mental health services. Kyle Reece, who serves as the Youth Training Coordinator for NC Voices Amplified, added that, “When young adults are navigating systems and services related to their mental and behavioral health, they long for the opportunity to be empowered and heard. Youth with lived experience need to be in the driver’s seat, so to speak, of their own care as they transition into adulthood, and they should be encouraged to help transform the systems and services that serve them and other young adults. It’s also important that we train Youth Support Partners and Youth Peer Support roles to not only help youth who are struggling navigating these systems, but equip youth with the training and skills necessary to become advocates for themselves and others. That’s what we strive for in this program: a youth-guided, strengths-based approach to youth advocacy, where youth not only have the opportunity to transform youth systems and services, but where they are empowered to become advocates for their own lives and the communities they belong in.”

All this week, we are planning a week-long virtual kickoff through the program’s website ( and social media platforms (@NCVoicesAmplified on Facebook and Instagram; @NCAmplified on Twitter). Each day this week, blog posts and videos will be shared to feature program staff members offering details about their work. 

Although NC Voices Amplified is a new program within UNCG, the CYFCP’s Director, Christine Murray, shared that the initiative builds upon UNCG’s long standing commitment to community-engaged work. She said, “Often, universities are viewed as ‘ivory towers’ with experts who are disengaged from real-world problems. NC Voices Amplified is such an exciting program for UNCG because it elevates lived experiences as a valuable type of expertise that can stand alongside research and other forms of evidence that inform mental health practice. For many of life’s difficult experiences, all the formal education in the world can’t help people understand what it’s like to live through it. Youth and Family Peer Support providers can work closely with mental health professionals and other healthcare professionals to help ensure that families have all the support they need when they’re facing mental health challenges.”


Teka Dempson

Teka Dempson

Program Manager, NC Youth & Family Voices AmplifiedProgram Manager, NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified

I am a lifelong learner and a resident of Durham, NC who graduated from Shaw University, Duke University (A one-time pilot), and Durham Technical Community College. My career has been new initiatives within medical facilities, group homes, county and state government, educational systems, early childhood, and higher education settings. Part of my journey was learning to embrace my Lived Experience with every system as a mother, caregiver, and Kinship Provider. I also gained an appreciation for how to share my voice for the needs, support, guidance, and resources required for my family to be successful. The journey was not easy. Making the choice to learn and understand systems, policies and procedures led to over forty-plus years of living, learning, building relationships/partners, and cultivating my skills and passion to support children, youth, and families locally, statewide, and nationally.

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Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglas

Family Training Coordinator

Hi I am Frederick Douglas and family is extremely important to me. I am the mother of 3 beautiful daughters, the grandmother of 5 and great grandmother of 6. I began this journey supporting my daughter who was experiencing emotional and behavioral mental health challenges. She was diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder at the early age of 5. I was overwhelmed with questions. What is Bi-Polar Disorder? What did I do to cause my daughter to act this way? Who can help us? After what seemed to be forever of trying to figure out what to do, I was finally connected to a grant that had a non-traditional approach to supporting families. This was my first introduction to System of Care. My daughter was not seen as a client that needed to be fixed and my family was not seen as a problem that needed to be solved. We were invited to be a part of a process that valued our thoughts about what worked best for “our family”. My family learned more about the mental health delivery system through this process, and we were able to share our views about some of the barriers to the system that was not really meeting the specific needs of families. We sat on both local. State and national committees, participated as co presenters in trainings and even assisted in developing and participating as faculty in a system of care multidisciplinary course at UNCG. I have over 30 years of experience in training and supporting families within the principles of youth-led and family-driven care. I truly believe that the voices of the families being served must lead the decision-making process in service delivery and that it is a vital component of mental wellness. I currently serve as the Certified Family Training Coordinator with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Some of my National and community accomplishments are Nationally Certified Family Peer Specialist, recipient of the National Federation of Families ‘Jane Adams Award for Peer Support in 2017, an ordained Elder and Pastor of a nonprofit “Faith in Community Ministries” in Greensboro NC, Bachelor of Arts in Communications at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. But my greatest contribution and accomplishment is using the experiences and lessons that I have learned in supporting my own family to support other families who also face the challenges associated with mental illness.

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Kara Lynch

Kara Lynch

Kara Lynch

Communication and Outreach Coordinator

I’m honored to serve as Communication and Outreach Coordinator for the Family and Youth Support and Education Program. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English from North Carolina State University. Prior to coming to UNCG, I was a Youth Support Partner for High Fidelity Wraparound where I used my lived experience to advocate for and empower youth with mental health diagnoses. I am passionate about building relationships and sharing my experience in a way that leaves others feeling seen and heard and their stories validated.

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Kyle Reece

Kyle Reece

Kyle Reece

Youth Training Coordinator

After being diagnosed with Autism at 13, and spending his adolescent years transitioning through various residential placements, Kyle Reece got involved with various youth-serving mental health organizations in his hometown of Durham, North Carolina. After serving as president of multiple youth advocacy organizations, including Youth M.O.V.E North Carolina, Kyle transitioned into his role as Youth Training Coordinator at UNCG. With his position, Kyle utilizes his lived experience expertise, as well as his passion to affect change for youth in his community and across the state, by providing technical assistance and training to, youth-serving organizations, community collaboratives, and residential placements across the state.

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