Youth Advocates for Immigrants and Refugees

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First YAIR Meeting 2021-2022

By: Olivia Cull    


     It’s been nearly a month since high school, “life as we knew it,” came to an end, and I’ve been spending some of my extra time editing podcasts for our first season of Speak Up/Speak Out. Despite these uncertain times, YAIR has held several productive virtual meetings about future steps for the podcast; we aim to share Season One with the general public sometime in May. Despite the occasional glitch in GarageBand, we’re heading in a positive direction! 

    In January, co-founder Nayantara Arora applied for and received a grant from the Stevens Initiative, which will support us in advertisement, production, and distribution of Speak Up/Speak Out on a variety of accessible digital platforms. We hope to reach out to many more immigrant and refugee youth for future interviews. Season 2, here we come!

   While the COVID-19 pandemic may be slowing down the process of in-person interviews, we are fully committed to continuing this project virtually, for the time being, as we strongly believe that providing a platform for youth to share their stories and experiences is an opportunity to foster connection and cross-cultural understanding. In the near future, we will post a flyer and link on the website for anyone who is interested in sharing their stories with Speak Up/Speak Out. 

      I hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and have the chance to enjoy the beautiful weather in the coming weeks. 




By: Nayantara Arora

     Before I came to St. Mary’s I had always felt underrepresented in my various communities. But at SMA, there are so many ways to feel included and heard. For example, there are several affinity groups at St. Mary’s that are meant to be spaces for minorities at St. Mary’s. Personally, Asian and Pacific Islander Club has been a super comforting place to go throughout my experience at SMA, in addition to being on the Student Equity Team.

      Last year, St. Mary’s had its first full day dedicated to equity and inclusion. There were over 30 student and adult-led workshops centered around a range of topics— from gender & sexuality to representation of people of color in the media. For me, UNITE day was a turning point in how I viewed representation at St. Mary’s. After attending two amazing student-led workshops about Asian Americans, I left the school feeling seen, heard and inspired.

     This year, I decided to create a workshop with Belise Nishimwe, Olivia Cull, and Allison Arbuthnot. The theme of our workshop was immigrant and refugee youth, as all of us had ties to the immigrant and refugee community. Because we wanted our workshop to remain engaging and informative without it being a long lecture, we searched for interactive ways to convey a message. Since December, we had been tirelessly reaching out to various speakers and students, when we stumbled upon a great opportunity; we had the chance to collaborate with Reynolds High School in order to engage in a story exchange. The day of UNITE, 41 students from Reynolds came to participate in our workshop, along with two cycles of 30 SMA students. The experience was amazing, and seeing the way in which allowing oneself to be vulnerable and sharing one’s personal story impacted the participants.

     Additionally, I would like to applaud the 30+ workshop leaders, and 70 students who were involved in making UNITE day happen! I hope that everyone went home feeling as empowered (and more) as I did last year. This was such an amazing opportunity.

Happy Holidays!


By: Olivia Cull     

     It’s the first week of winter break for most of us at YAIR, and with the stress of finals behind us we are moving ahead with plans to reach out to more potential interviewees. As the new year approaches, we hope to broaden the scope of our podcast to incorporate the voices of youth activists with a focus on Black Lives Matter and the Coronavirus pandemic- after Portland became the epicenter of Black Lives Matter protests following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many other Black lives, we see a need to bring more multicultural, specifically Black, voices to the forefront of conversations surrounding multiculturalism in one of the whitest U.S. cities. This summer was historic; we aim to make sense of it through stories of the youth involved in and impacted by the BLM movement. 

     Nayantara has been working hard on creating amazing graphics to send out on our revamped YAIR Instagram, as well as applying for year 2 of the Stevens Institute Grant, which would allow us to provide future interviewees with a stipend of up to 50 dollars each. Season 2 of our podcast is underway and we are all excited to continue building upon it and growing our listener base! 

     I hope readers have a restful end to December and a fulfilling start to the New Year. It is hard to believe that this historic year of 2020 is finally coming to a close. 


April 2021


By: Olivia Cull

Hi everyone, 
     With our second season of Speak Up/Speak Out published and receiving more and more views each week, YAIR is still up and running and excited to move onto our next project! Recently, Nayantara applied for a renewed grant from the Stevens Initiative, and we’re excited to announce that they will be supporting us through another season of Speak Up/Speak Out. As we reach out to organizations such as Mercy Corps and Catholic Charities promoting the podcast, we’ve also been working on becoming trained Narrative 4 Story-Exchange facilitators. I participated in the training earlier this year and gained an in-depth understanding of the importance of empathy and active listening, especially when sharing stories. I attended a virtual story-exchange, which was meaningful even on zoom; by now, we’ve gotten the hang of connecting with others online! Narrative 4’s impact is widespread; it has organized exchanges in more than 180 schools across the country, and strives to work against bias and racism through the story-exchange method. With the recent murders of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and so many more, we have been reflecting on the vital importance of large-scale collective action against racism and police brutality. Empathy is a crucial aspect of equity. 

Happy New Year! 


I can’t believe it’s already 2022. With the new year, we are pleased to announce two new members to our team: Maéline Bringuier and Deborah Iraheta-Gonzalez, who have just joined us at the end of 2021. Both are students at St. Mary’s Academy and are excited to join YAIR to make a difference in our communities. Welcome to YAIR. We are excited to see what great things you accomplish in and outside of YAIR..
Additionally, we are almost ready to publish Season 3 of Speak Up/Speak Out. Stay tuned for the release of 4 new episodes highlighting a myriad of stories, including but not limited to Maéline’s story. If you are interested in learning what motivates Maéline to join YAIR, stay tuned for the release of Season 3. 

Stay tuned for a post about our newest members and Season 3. I hope you all are finding things to be grateful for in this new year. I know things look bleak, but if we have learned anything in the past two years, we have learned how to be resilient and find optimism. 

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