Kayla Blau (she/her) deeply values the gifts young people bring to the world, and is passionate about cultivating youth-centered spaces and communities. After witnessing punitive school environments push students out of the school system firsthand, Kayla is excited to share tools and practices to support students that have experienced complex trauma and/or are marginalized in our White-dominant education system.
Kayla previously worked as a Child Advocate at a domestic violence shelter, where she co-curated youth poetry chapbooks with young people to process trauma and build community. She also supported students experiencing homelessness at Seattle Public Schools and provided mental health support to students at Highline Public Schools. She was an active member of the No New Youth Jail campaign, which advocated for community-based alternatives to youth detention and an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. Bearing witness to the harms caused by the carceral system and the U.S public education system fuel her work to challenge racist systems and co-create a more just world.
She holds a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Washington, and provides writing support to nonprofits across the Pacific Northwest.
As a freelance journalist, Kayla’s work can be found in the South Seattle Emerald, Crosscut, The Stranger, Seattle Globalist, and more.
What are people most surprised to learn about you?
Sometimes I can come off as shy, so folks are surprised I was an avid spoken word artist many years ago. I might not like small talk, but I was fully comfortable performing a poem about white supremacy at Town Hall in front of 200+ people! ????
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?
You can usually find me at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or researching the next delicious eatery I’ll be dining in. Along with my food obsession, I love reading (book recommendations available upon request!), writing, and hot yoga.
What drew you to BELONG Partners?
I attended my first BELONG Partners training in 2015, when I was a burnt-out advocate for 50+ youth at a domestic violence shelter. I was wholly unprepared to support youth that had all experienced severe trauma, and even though my co-workers and I had attended other de-escalation and mental health trainings, nothing was really working. After a series of BELONG Partner trainings, we were able to co-regulate with the young people. It’s not as if all behavioral issues disappeared immediately, but we were equipped to work through it by centering connection and community. I deeply believe in this work because I’ve seen it work – and I’ve seen the harms caused when young people are treated as problems to solve rather than community members to treat with care.