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Spotlight on Hope: Empowering Youth and Families in Challenging Times

As our nation continues to grieve the 21 lives lost in the Uvalde massacre, the 27th school shooting this year alone, a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is gaining momentum in sixteen states across the country. Simultaneously, families are grappling with runaway inflation and growing food and housing insecurity. At every turn, our systems are failing youth and families.  

We know from research that context matters, and families struggle when they live in environments that don’t support them. A recent research brief from the National Council on Family Relations confirms that children of LGBTQ+ parents and LGBTQ+ children and youth are more likely to flourish when their schools and communities are supportive, and not stigmatizing. Additionally, family science professionals have documented the impacts of racism, gun violence, inadequate child welfare systems, immigration policies, incarceration, and the opioid epidemic on the lives and well-being of children, youth, and families. Clearly, many youth and families lack safe, supportive communities in which they can live and thrive. 

In the wake of rising wealth inequality, continued mass shootings, and legislation that denies young people’s full humanity, helplessness has become an all too common sentiment. Nevertheless, there is reason to be hopeful. Faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences at NC State  are addressing these pressing family issues in our research, teaching, and extension, as we work to empower youth, families, and communities. Over the next six months, this series, which we are calling, Spotlight on Hope: Empowering Youth and Families in Challenging Times, will shine a light on courageous and committed current students, alumni, and faculty who are taking action to create equitable, supportive, and welcoming schools and communities where all youth and families thrive. 

Indeed, we believe that taking action offers us a compass, a way to move beyond hollow optimism, toward possibility, and, ultimately, social change. From addressing gun safety initiatives and trauma-informed care to tackling food and housing insecurity, racism, reproductive health, and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, you will hear all about what our students and faculty are doing on the ground and in communities to improve the lives of youth and families. We will also share resources and opportunities for engagement. We hope you’ll join us!