I think I’ve always innately felt the power of story—to connect, to divide, to shape the way we see ourselves and others, the world we inhabit. As a kid, I would get lost in books or stories for hours. I loved reading, listening, talking to people and asking about their memories. I still love it. It’s fascinating to watch someone tell the same story in different ways, as its impacts became clearer to them.
More than ever, I feel the need to center storytellers, to help make space for more voices, more experiences, more questions and more ways of seeing and reflecting.
By far the most inspiring part of my job is meeting young people from all over the country who are not content to simply accept our world as it is, but instead ask why, question narratives, pay attention to stories and storytellers, and envision a different path forward. That gives me hope.
I’m passionate about our work to support equitable access to opportunity, because I believe that our policies and systems should enable success for young people — and that is not the case for many communities right now. That said, I am so inspired by all the young people we work with that are visioning and working towards a more equitable world.
At SparkAction, my role is helping connect partners and amplify the voices and demands of young leaders, activists, and organizers to drive change. I believe that the best solutions come from those closest to the issues, and my favorite part of this work is connecting with young leaders to learn about how they’re driving change in their communities and how we can leverage SparkAction’s platform to support their work.
Through my work with SparkAction, I am most excited about amplifying the stories of my peers: young people demanding national change. My main focus is on ensuring that young people are consistently centered in conversations and invited into the rooms we are often left out of.
At SparkAction, the emphasis on youth leadership stands out most to me. Young people have consistently been at the forefront of change, and have always been the ones dedicated to halt business as usual. It is vital to empower young people to share their ideas, stories, and voices around the future we demand.
Dillon’s full bio.
SparkAction’s vision to build an equitable future for rising generations and its value of “welcoming uncertainty” speaks to me most, especially when I think about youth leadership. I would say I have always been an advocate for making space for youth leadership. As a Youth Farm Manager at a community garden, the young people told me that in our first harvest, they had counted me out, thinking that I could not teach them how to garden, yet I made them feel like they knew how to garden because of the tips I gave and the way I incorporated their feedback. We learned from each other. It’s that moment when you embrace a beginners mindset that does it for me!
A passionate advocate and youth organizer, Shaquana Boykin works closely with the SparkAction team to enhance Opportunity Youth United’s digital presence by producing content, coordinating social media, and launching creative events and activations. As a community activist and youth movement leader, Shaquana’s work centers around food and environmental justice, tenant rights, safety initiatives, wellness and access to the arts. In addition to her work with the Forum, Shaquana is currently a Food Sovereignty Organizer at Brooklyn Movement Center, a Community Leader with OYUnited, and an NYC Bike Share Advocate. She also serves as Chair of Programming on the Board of the Fort Greene Park Conversancy, Friends of Commodore Barry Park, is a member of the Public Allies Alumni Board, and the Children & Nature Network Young Leaders Advisory Committee. (She doesn’t get a lot of sleep!) Before joining the Forum, Shaquana worked with the Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Cooperation, the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, managed CSAs and the City Harvest Mobile Market, and coordinated New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) gardeners at Ingersoll, Whitman & Farragut Houses to name a few. A native Brooklynite, Shaquana holds an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College & a Bachelor’s in Legal Studies from CUNY’s New York City College of Technology.
The way SparkAction Values Youth Leadership resonates the most with me. My high school played a big role in helping me identify the type of youth leader I am and the one I’d like to become. I was able to learn how to properly articulate and voice my concerns in a way that prompt action to bring change in every aspect of my life. This is what I admire most about this organization. SparkAction’s use of their platform to give youth a chance to voice their concerns and help them actively participate in the decision making process of certain bills that shapes their future is admirable.
The most exciting part of my job is being able to work with my peers and fellow youth leaders because it gives me the opportunity to learn something new every day. Also being able to Share my experiences and hopefully help someone else in any way that I can through my writing brings me joy. I hope to one day be able to assist youths in furthering their education on a large scale regardless of their background and what challenges they face.