Urban Retreat 2014

Deb Hauser, President, Advocates for Youth

Can’t believe #Urban Retreat14 is coming to an end!!! Going back to UMaine with so much motivation, inspiration and love in my heart!

          Tweet from Lucy, Urban Retreat participant, Sept 15, 2014

What more is there to say?  Each and every Urban Retreat leaves us even more inspired and more motivated than the year before!  This year 140 amazing youth activists from more than 30 states and four countries joined us in Washington DC for this five-day, intensive youth leadership institute.

From Mario, who helped flip sex education policy in Broward County, Florida (the 6th largest school district in the country), to Kirin who spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court about what young people could lose in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, to B.K. who eloquently shared how she navigates the intersection of her identities as queer, black and undocumented — with your support, young people like these on the frontlines shared their stories and received specialized training and assistance to continue advocating for positive sexual health policies and programs in their communities in the year ahead. In their own words on Twitter (#UrbanRetreat14):


Highlights from this year include:

  • A pre-conference to hone the media skills of some of our most fantastic activists;
  • The first live reading of Advocates’ new play Out of Silence, Stories Inspired by the 1 in 3 Campaign;
  • Thought provoking youth-led workshops such as: Addressing Sexual Assault on Your Campus:  Advocacy, Title IX and Transformative Justice; Fighting the Good Fight: Assimilation, Intersectionality and Radical Politics;  Queering Reproductive Justice: Overlapping in the Margins; and Burnout in Social Justice Work:  Why it Happens and How to Deal with It;
  • Skill building training including Social Media Analytics Demystified; the Story of Self; Thinking Like a Fundraiser; Speaking for/Speaking with: Power, Oppression and Privilege and How to Apply Their Awareness to Advocacy and Organizing;
  • A well-appreciated visit from the All Above All Campaign Road Trip;
  • The launch of Advocates’ Alumni Network, attended by more than 50 former and current staff, activists and board members; and
  • A rocking session with SisterSong’s inspirational Monica Simpson who brought the house down with her passionate speech, her amazingly melodic songs and her appeal to be great.


On the last day of the Urban Retreat, activists headed to Capitol Hill to educate policymakers about the importance of real, comprehensive sex education and the need to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule and to hold them accountable.  Advocates coordinated 95 Congressional visits asking Members of Congress to cosponsor the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act and the Global Democracy Promotion Act. Youth activists met with Health and Education Legislative Assistants and youth from Alabama had the opportunity to meet with Senator Sessions.


  • Congressman Palazzo’s (R-AL) office shared: “I met this morning with our constituents, and I just wanted to drop you a quick note letting you know how refined and articulate each was.  Please pass along to them that they impressed me with their openness about their personal experiences and feelings, while still remaining professional.”
  • Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) signed on as a new co-sponsor to the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act the day after youth activists visited with his office. Other new co-sponsors as a result of meetings with youth activists include Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM) bringing the bill to 65 sponsors in the House.


With many tearful hugs and promises to stay in touch, these fantastic youth activists returned to their communities reenergized to advocate for change. 

So I was the youngest kid at the Urban Retreat this year and I just want it to be known this was the best time of my life. Being an open lesbian in the state of Ohio is not the easiest but going to DC and talking about myself was easy. Falling in love with my surroundings and making forever family in my council and with others was a mind-bending experience I will never forget. I don’t cry cause I am not a wimp but I cried at the thought I may never be in such a amazing situation with the same group of people again. I pray and hope with everything I have to return next year as a second year Urban Retreater and make new memories. Much love goes out to everyone from Advocates and I can’t wait for the following months and years to come. – Adalia, 15 years old, Ohio


We are certain that they will be successful as they hone their skills, stand up for their rights and mobilize for change.

Thank you again for your commitment and support of Advocates’ work. We hope you are as proud as we are of this year’s Urban Retreat attendees and the diverse, vibrant network of activists it has created!




PS:  Activists are already taking the messages and skills they learned at the Urban Retreat to heart.  Check out this blog from Kirin and Brianna.