Charity Spotlight: DCAYA

by Editorial

Local nonprofit brings multiple nonprofits together to effect widespread change.
By Kinne Chapin

A DCAYA committee meeting. (Photo courtesy of DCAYA)

In our history books, America celebrates the accomplishments of individuals. But there is only so much change that one person, or even one organization, can accomplish. As the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) knows, in order to achieve progress, we must work together.

DCAYA is a coalition of non-profit organizations in Washington that share the mission to promote and advocate for the needs of the city’s youth. With over 100 member organizations ranging from Bread for the City, to DC Action for Children, and Educated Eats, DCAYA demonstrates that though Washington non-profits may have divergent goals, they are all dedicated to protecting the city’s children.

While its member organizations affect the lives of Washington citizens daily, DCAYA hopes to make large-scale changes in the city over time. Whether they are testifying at a hearing about proposed budget cuts for the public school system or releasing the first citywide study of youth homelessness, the breadth of their focus will hopefully lead to widespread change in a city too often rooted in inefficiency and red tape.

Because DCAYA is able to bring experts from many different nonprofits together, change for the city overpowers individual achievement as the organization’s greatest goal. And with experts from over 100 different organizations around the capital, DCAYA is the definition of dreaming big. We spoke with Jamie Doran, Membership and Communications Director for DCAYA, to find out how this nonprofit keeps thinking outside the box.

Quick Q&A with Jamie Doran

Washington Life: What is DCAYA’s mission?
Jamie Doran: Our mission is to ensure policies, programs and practices within the District of Columbia that promote and propel youth into a productive and healthy adulthood. We envision a District of Columbia where no young person is considered to be “at-risk.” Where all children and youth are respected as valued members of their communities, and where our city’s leaders actively represent the interests of young people.

WL: How was DCAYA founded?
JD: We were founded in 2004 as a way for like-minded youth-serving nonprofit organizations in the District to come together and advocate for better programs and opportunities for youth in the city.

WL: How can the public get involved?
JD: We always love when the public takes an interest in our work! Since DCAYA works with the city’s youth, we don’t often need volunteers at our office, however we encourage anyone to donate their time to one of our 120 member organizations and we also encourage community members that are interested in youth issues to take part in the work of the organization by testifying at hearings, meeting with City Council Members and using DCAYA as an information resource.

WL: What sets you apart from other DC nonprofits?
JD: DCAYA is unique in the nonprofit sphere because our work is tied both to other research/advocacy organizations like the Brookings Institute, the Afterschool Alliance and the Urban Institute, and to our direct service member organizations who provide the “on the ground” perspective. This is a fairly rare combination in the nonprofit arena and we benefit immensely from being able to meld the two worlds.

WL: Finish this sentence: I want people in DC to know that…
JD: There is a large and often disjointed system of providing education, after-school programs, workforce preparation and other services to the youth of our city. DCAYA works with these government programs to improve coordination, engage the expertise of cost-effective, youth development organizations, and bring research and best practices to the structure of the District’s services for young people.

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