By Priscilla Rodriguez & Alexandra Fradelizio | m/Oppenheim.Org Writers
Across the state of Indiana, hundreds of organizations are working to improve the lives of youth through education, health, economic support, environment, and community resources. In order to do this however, many of these organizations rely on the support of the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI), a nonprofit based in Indianapolis.
For three decades, IYI has supported the youth services field by providing training, capacity-building resources, and critical data.
“We work to ensure that organizations and youth workers have access to high-quality professional development and opportunities to come together and learn from one another,” says Tami Silverman, President and CEO of IYI.
“We try to fill the gaps of need for organizations so that they can provide their services to kids throughout the state.”
Without this essential support system, many organizations would be unable to provide their services, or they might simply not be able to measure their success or impact in the lives of youths.
Silverman explains that though IYI doesn’t work directly with youth, the team uses data to help schools and programs understand the most urgent issues affecting youth today. Additionally, the IYI team offers support in the form of consulting and training for professionals who work with youth, such as teachers, coaches, and counselors.
Every year, IYI publishes its Indiana KIDS COUNT® Data Book, which provides key insights on the important issues facing Indiana’s youth. The data helps organizations recognize where they should focus their time and efforts and also informs communities on how they can work together to develop solutions for those issues.
“We hope to advance the conversation around data to, ‘What does that data mean?’ and ‘How can our community help create actionable solutions knowing that data and having access to that information?’” says Silverman.
Through data, one of the biggest issues that IYI has been able to identify in its communities today is the disparity in opportunity between children of different races.
Not all the resources that are essential to a child’s well-being, such as a good education or access to health care, are readily available across the state, explains Silverman. IYI supports youth-serving organizations in their work on these disparities and hopes to inspire youths themselves to speak up on those issues.
Looking to the future, Silverman says that getting kids involved is one of the organization’s biggest goals.
“We want to make more space at the table to include youth in the conversation. For example, this year, we had a youth panel at our College and Career Conference. It was a wonderful opportunity for our audiences to hear directly from youth and learn from their experiences.”
IYI currently works with several state and national agencies to unpack important data on Indiana’s youth and also supports more than 3,000 youth-serving organizations across the state every year.
Silverman herself has served as the organization’s President and CEO since 2016 and has nearly three decades of experience in serving families and children in family violence prevention programs and youth leadership programs.
As a native of Indiana, Silverman says that working with IYI has felt like a natural way for her to give back to her community by supporting the hundreds of organizations that are doing the important groundwork to improve the lives of children. As she continues to lead IYI in its mission to support the field, she is eager to see how new partnerships and new visionaries will help to pave the way for a positive future for all of Indiana’s youth.