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Alumni Friendship Sparks Collaboration to Help Nashville Youth

Kylan Hadley and Adrianna Carter were students in the MSSW Nashville program. Both were in the Organizational Leadership Concentration and became fast friends with much in common. So much in common that they recently collaborated on a project to help the youth of Nashville feel safe, stable, and part of a nurturing community.

Kylan Hadley
Adrianna Carter

“Adrianna and I became friends in our intro to Macro Social Work class and remained close for the remainder of our program,” Hadley said. “Adrianna was a full-time student, so she graduated in 2019, a year before I did. She and I completed field placements at the Oasis Center at the same time. After that year, she graduated and was hired by the Oasis Center and I continued to complete my second field placement at the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. After my graduation in 2020, I was hired as the ACE (All Children Excel) Nashville Coordinator at Metro Public Health Department. ACE Nashville is a collective impact initiative whose mission is to prevent and mitigate the lifelong impact of childhood adversity to improve the safety, health and prosperity of our community. We have close to 500 individual members representing 130+ organizations who are committed to creating change in Nashville to incorporate a trauma and ACEs informed lens into our city’s culture.”

During the pandemic, ACE Nashville has been focused on sharing its platform with Black organizers and ACEs professionals. Their previous quarterly meeting had been focused on healing racial trauma in North Nashville. “Our leadership team has been invested in incorporating youth voice for some time,” Hadley explained. “When we began planning our next quarterly meeting, we were all concerned about the impact of pandemic related isolation and disruption on our youth. We were also inspired by youth-led movements in our city and country that have led to so much positive change. I reached out to Adrianna and asked if the Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC) would be willing to participate in the event. She invited me to come to their next meeting and offer a Building Strong Brains training to the members so that they could make an informed decision. That meeting was wonderful, and the young people on the council were very interested in learning more and contributing to the mission of ACE Nashville. We reached out to Dr. Sheila Peters, a renowned psychologist from Fisk University with a long history of working with young people from culturally diverse backgrounds. One point on her resume that always piqued my interest is that she works with the Tennessee Titans. We had one planning meeting with Dr. Peters and the panelists. We were committed to creating space for the MYC members to do their thing. We did not plan topics for them to discuss, but invited them to outline their own event. They focused on the challenges of the pandemic related to isolation and education, the political divisiveness and contemptuous election, and the role that social media has played in raising the profile of youth voice. I and MANY of our members were deeply moved by the words of the panelists. Many of our members remarked that it was the best quarterly meeting they could remember. We were so blessed by the voices of the Mayor’s Youth Council and by Adrianna’s leadership. We look forward to exploring ways to partner in the future. It was an incredible privilege to collaborate with my good friend Adrianna on this event, because I have admired her since our first days at UTCSW.”

Mayor’s Youth Council with Nashville Mayor John Cooper

As Carter continues her work with the Oasis Center and the Mayor’s Youth Council, she is also grateful for Kylan and the collaboration they developed. “The Mayor’s Youth Council is all about youth confronting the most challenging issues facing our city,” Carter explained. “We connect with government officials, give input on government policies and practices that affect youth, bring youth together to discuss key issues at the Mayor’s Youth Summit, participate in citywide service like the MLK Day Nashville Celebration, and advocate for initiatives by youth and for youth. Working with Kylan was wonderful and reminded me of our time together at the UT College of Social Work. College initially brought us together and now our similar goals of helping the youth in Nashville allow us to keep working together.”