| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter


Regional Youth Justice Consortium

Bringing together youth from all across metro Detroit, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion’s Regional Youth Justice Consortium engages youth in meaningful work for change while building real, sustainable relationships with people they may otherwise never meet. 
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion Program Director Deborah Williamson: I would say there are three ways.  We bring together between 80-100 youth from across the region, from four schools in Detroit and four out of Detroit, from Downriver, Oakland County and Macomb County. Those youth have a sustained and developing relationship over the course of the year. They don’t just come together once, they come together for a two-day retreat and four summits during the year, with all of them working on two issues that they have identified that they would like to work together on, both independently in their own communities and then coming back together to develop skills and talk about how the same issues are developing in their communities. Doing it themselves sustains the relationships begun in the teams.
The group is guided to look into not just interpersonal relationships, and not just at how interpersonal relationships need to change, but what are the institutional structures that perpetuate inequities in our region...

The second important element is that we have the Regional Youth Interns who spend four months with us; they do much of the work of workshop development and network building in the program for these larger groups of youth. They are also from Detroit and the suburbs  and are very integral to connecting these different  school and youth leadership groups. The principal focus of the program is educational justice and gender-based bullying this year; the youth determine what kind of skills and knowledge they want to develop around those issues.
The third is that it is a very social and digital media based program, to understand how to use technology and become very familiar with it as a way to create transformative social change. Over the course of the last year and a half, we’ve been teaching the youth to use digital and social media to do social justice work, and that has really shifted the nature of what is seen on our  Facebook page. There does have to be some very active work around helping young people understand the power of social media to create a narrative that’s different from the mainstream, about how to create change around an issue they are passionate about.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
We recognized we had to organize a program where youth could be paid to do this work for a sustained period of time, in order for them to develop the depth of knowledge and the depth of skills needed for them to be able to move beyond knowing they can get along with anybody to really understanding the structural forms of oppression and how that impacts the inequities we face.
The best lesson I have learned as a programmer is the difference in what happened to those youth over a sustained period of relationship building and skill building. When we began the program, it was very intentional early on to make sure that two-thirds of the youth came from inside of city and one-third came from outside. Much of the learning is place-based and looks at the community as it is right now. There was a perception that the youth from the suburbs would come in and be missionaries and would do good work in the city. Instead, we wanted to include many young people who would have a different perspective on what would be good change work. In order to do that, and get some young folks from city to be able to do that, we had to pay them to level the playing field in who had access to learning those higher-level skills.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
One is that in this kind of a program which is very relationship-building, it’s necessary to limit how many youth can actually
Our goal is to have some transformative change that creates equity across differences.
participate, and have all of the youth be able to be a part of it effectively. Another sort of hard lesson we’re working with is the young people who are the less traditional leaders don’t make it through the interview process well. We’re having to figure out how we go back and identify the young folks who haven’t grown up learning how you speak, how you relate to people, including folks who have been non-traditional leaders, so we’re not just getting those young people who always present themselves well. We’re still really continuing to learn how is it we recruit and select a diverse group of young people who will foster learning with themselves and each other.
What really differentiates this program?
Looking specifically at the Regional Youth Justice Consortium, I think what differentiates the program is that it really is highly youth-led in looking at a social justice issue. The group is guided to look into not just interpersonal relationships, and not just at how interpersonal relationships need to change, but what are the institutional structures that perpetuate inequities in our region and how do we address those issues.
What are the keys to success for your program?
I think that we really engage youth in determining what the program will look like. A successful outcome is that everyone in the program is beginning to see themselves as somebody who can do more than they thought they could do before: in school or work or their professional lives they see themselves as more able to impact their own lives, but also as more able to impact what is happening in their own communities, be that the community where they live or work or go to school.
How do race or diversity affect the work of your program?
It’s the foundation of our program, having a lens of difference in race, gender, ability, ethnicity, and understanding how our culture and background affect that lens. In everything that we do we’re challenging the young people and ourselves to look at how those differences impact power structures, both in small dialogue groups as well as institutionally. Our goal is to have some transformative change that creates equity across differences.
Signup for Email Alerts

Person Profile


  • Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion
    We work to address inequity throughout our region through a process of recognition, reconciliation and renewal. We strive to build relationships that create social justice and build sustainable inclusive communities.


Felicia Andrews

Transforming Neighborhoods and Attitudes

End Bullying, Save Lives

Putting the Brakes on Bullying

Matt Gillard, CEO of Michigan's Children

Long-time Children's Advocate Embraces New Role

View All People


Infancy to Innovation list

Infancy to Innovation

Engaging families of color in identifying problems and solutions

Youth Initiatives Project

Youth Initiative Project

Connecting youth to causes they care about


Youth Voice

Organizing for community change
View All Programs

Bright Ideas

Gift Kids, Ann Arbor

Finding the Balance Between an Asian and American Identity

No matter how loving the home, Asian adoptees often struggle with identity. The impacts of race and culture don't diminish with assimilation. Mam Non is a support program that helps adopted children and their parents bridge the gap between their Asian and American identities.

Childrens Center thumb

Support for Children of Migrant Workers

Without migrant laborers, many Michigan farms wouldn't get their crops in. But the groups of temporary residents can challenge the services available in rural areas. Groups across northwest Michigan provide help with day care, health care, dental services, and summer school for children of the migrant workers who pick crops or do other farm labor for a living.

Kinetic Effect Office thumbnail

Program Offers a Second Chance for Young People

Can young people poised for adult criminal records turn their lives around? Some dedicated folks in Kalamazoo are trying to help them round that corner.
View All Bright Ideas

Directly Related Content