Webinar Recap: Programs to Strengthen Social Connectedness Among Young People

Last week, the April installment of 2022 Social Connectedness Webinar Series went live! We were fortunate to be joined by our three panelists, who are individuals performing invigorating work in the field with young people:

Our panelists shared what inspired them to pursue work in supporting young people, some background on their journey to where they are now, and insights into their programs and initiatives. Read on to learn more.

Daniel Martinez Jr, MSW

Daniel Martinez Jr.Originally from Texas, Daniel spoke of his inspiration to get involved with youth-centered programs by sharing a story of one of his uncles, who he grew close to throughout high school. His uncle listened to him and validated the things he said, taking him seriously. He also credited his school counselor, who met him and his fellow students where they were and lending an ear when it was needed. These experiences helped him realize that things could be better for young people when they have adults, separate from family, in their lives and communities that support them and make sure they feel seen. These powerful experiences set him on a path to work with youth and teens, leading him to getting his masters degree in social work from University of Denver.

While at the University, Daniel sought out internships that were focused on helping youth. Working with Rainbow Alley, he got a firsthand look at the challenges and transformations that queer youth underwent as they fully embraced their identities. These experiences also helped Daniel in his journey as a queer person. Daniel now works on UpRise, which takes a social justice approach to combat youth tobacco use in Colorado, and with the help of a teammate, is leading the Colorado Queer Rural Health Network.

Some goals for the Colorado Queer Rural Health Network:

    • Create a space for connection and support
    • Affirm the identities of queer youth
    • Cocreate a vision and organize collective action to produce more inclusive spaces that will promote belonging and healing for queer youth across the state

For more on Daniel’s presentation, head to our YouTube page to find a full recording of the webinar, as well as highlight clips.

D.L. Pos Ryant

D.L. Pos Ryant Pos’ inspiration to work with youth and young people came from seeing those before him doing meaningful work in communities he was in, and also from growing up and being in areas where access and awareness of important programs was limited. When he began his work, he found direction by simply listening to student conversations about their interests and what opportunities they’d like to see.

Pos has been a Colorado resident for over two decades now, but his journey began in his home state of South Carolina. He originally began working with youth through sports, leading him to join Big Brothers Big Sisters, where he was a Big Brother for a number of years. His experiences with the organization lead him to strategize how to make an impact of his own. After meeting his partner, Ronnie “Qi” Harvey, the two brought together a diverse array of ideas, from tenets of Tai Chi, health and wellness initiatives, and ideals laid out in a book that Mr. Harvey was writing at the time, called The Apprentice of Peace: An Uncommon Dialogue, which was published in 2014. 

When Pos and AOPYO began in 2013, terms like mental health and social emotional awareness were just gaining visibility in many circles. AOPYO got its start in parks where the community came together to practice Tai Chi, perform African drumming, and listen in on health and wellness sessions. Pos and Mr. Harvey have extensive training and education in Tai Chi, and use that to guide many of the teachings of AOPYO. For more on Pos’ presentation, head to our YouTube page to find a full recording of the webinar, as well as highlight clips.

Some principles and programs of AOPYO:

    • R.C.A: Realization, Committed Effort and Accepting Principles of Change
    • Youth Councils: Jr. Apprentices, Youth Advisory Council
    • Enrichment Programs: Tai Chi for Peace, Little Apprentices
    • Career Pathways, Mentorships

Kini Tinkham

Kini TinkhamKini has a background as a registered nurse, and spent the early years of her career in maternal and child health, with years of experience as a labor nurse, in addition to over a decade of service as school nurse and a youth advisor. Her experiences as a labor nurse gave her insight into families, and the realization that no two families are alike; yet all families she encountered were trying their hardest to ensure a safe environment for their newborns. She moved into community health afterwards, supporting families as they brought their newborns home, bringing assistance and knowledge to the family. Later in her career, she moved into public health, working with Maine’s adolescents. Kini said “I really enjoyed the continuum of children, and their development. I love our state and our community, so this positive connection is really a key for me in my work.”

Kini and the Maine Resilience Building Network (MRBN) began the Cultivating Youth Mattering initiative two and a half years ago. MRBN is made up of around 2500 people in Maine, connecting through public health, business and other professional fields. Kini shared a slide on MRBN’s definition of mattering: “Mattering is the sense of being significant and valued by other people…People who believe they matter to others have a key protective resource that can buffer them from life’s stressors and challenges throughout their lives.” Also shared were some statistics that underscore the importance of cultivating youth mattering, as youth, in addition to later in life: Youth who feel connected at home and at school are 66% less likely to experience health risk behaviors, and adults who experienced strong connections as youth were 48%-66% less likely to have mental health issues, experience violence, use substances, and exhibit risky sexual behavior. For more on Kini’s presentation, head to our YouTube page to find a full recording of the webinar, as well as highlight clips.

Some efforts that Kini and the MRBN are focused on:

    • Belonging in Public Spaces: Making parks and public spaces more welcoming and safe for youth
    • Youth-Adult Relationships: Having caring, stable relationships with adults in the community
    • Power and Voice in Community Affairs: Inviting diverse groups of youth to be at the table, to work with cross-sector groups in their communities
    • Creative Engagement: Bringing youth together, fostering creativity

Register for Our Upcoming Webinars!

We appreciate our panelists for sharing their insights and expertise with us and our audience! The May installment of our Social Connectedness Webinar Series will be titled Strengthening Social Connectedness Among Veterans, and will go live on May 25th, 2022 at 12pm MT. Register to attend here.

For more information on all of our 2022 Social Connectedness Webinars, click here.

Be sure to stay tuned to our Visible Us Blog for more product updates and VNL Team content!

About the Author: Will Jacobson

Will Jacobson is the Business Development Representative on VNL’s Marketing and Communications Team. Originally from New York City, Will loves living in Colorado and all the outdoor life it has to offer. He’s also a pretty big foodie!

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D.L. Pos Ryant

Pos’ inspiration to work with youth and young people came from seeing those before him doing meaningful work in communities he was in, and also from growing up and being in areas where access and awareness of important programs was limited. When he began his work, he found direction by simply listening to student conversations about their interests and what opportunities they’d like to see.


Pos has been a Colorado resident for over two decades now, but his journey began in his home state of South Carolina. He originally began working with youth through sports, leading him to join Big Brothers Big Sisters, where he was a Big Brother for a number of years. His experiences with the organization lead him to strategize how to make an impact of his own. After meeting his partner, Ronnie “Qi” Harvey, the two brought together a diverse array of ideas, from tenets of Tai Chi, health and wellness initiatives, and ideals laid out in a book that Mr. Harvey was writing at the time, called The Apprentice of Peace: An Uncommon Dialogue, which was published in 2014. 


When Pos and AOPYO began in 2013, terms like mental health and social emotional awareness were just gaining visibility in many circles. AOPYO got its start in parks where the community came together to practice Tai Chi, perform African drumming, and listen in on health and wellness sessions. Pos and Mr. Harvey have extensive training and education in Tai Chi, and use that to guide many of the teachings of AOPYO. For more on Pos’ presentation, head to our YouTube page to find a full recording of the webinar, as well as highlight clips.


Some principles and programs of AOPYO:


  • R.C.A: Realization, Committed Effort and Accepting Principles of Change
  • Youth Councils: Jr. Apprentices, Youth Advisory Council
  • Enrichment Programs: Tai Chi for Peace, Little Apprentices
  • Career Pathways, Mentorships