Interview with Amy Kayon

Amy Kayon recently created and implemented programming at Portland State University, where she works as the Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator.

Three years ago, Nest members Libby Spears and Nishima Chudasama met Amy when they were piloting the first version of Nest's curriculum at a high school in Portland. Amy was quick to introduce changes (improvements) to the lesson plans and she now serves as Nest's curriculum advisor and teacher trainer.

 AMY TRAINING EDUCATORS ON THE NEST CURRICULUM IN PORTLAND, OREGON. PHOTO BY LIBBY SPEARS.

AMY TRAINING EDUCATORS ON THE NEST CURRICULUM IN PORTLAND, OREGON. PHOTO BY LIBBY SPEARS.

NEST: What work do you do with Nest Foundation?

AK: My role has evolved, I give input on the changes that I think should happen to the curriculum and I facilitate the “train the trainer program,” to make sure we are training facilitators in the way that best prepares them to teach the curriculum.

To me, it seems that there’s a great deal of changes made to the curriculum.

Yes, and honestly what I most appreciate about Nest is that we are able to iterate and improve constantly. We have to be fluid because, like the nature of exploitation, the landscape is morphing. Perpetrators revise their strategies as potential victims become more informed and so curriculum has to be evolutionary in order to remain current. They (Libby and Nishima) deeply understand and are committed to that.

What unique challenges does the sensitive nature of this content pose?

(Sexual exploitation) is a moving target. The other challenging thing that isn’t said but needs to be is: trafficking and youth exploitation are hot topics. Today they are buzzwords, the issues are fundable, everybody wants to say they are doing something about it. But, in this space, there isn’t a lot of self-reflection about how people are helping the youth that they are working with.

One example of this is that Nest initially focused on trafficking and exploitation. Then, they realized that the scope was too narrow. So, they zoomed the lens way back, which lets us talk about systems of oppression i.e. how does being a student of color affect your life/opportunities/access?

Tackling systematic areas of exploitation and seeing how the system is already rigged is a huge piece that many traditional trafficking orgs miss. Many want to do “response” or “prevention” but it is so narrowly focused that it doesn’t feel applicable to kids. By opening the curriculum up, students get relevancy which allows them to acquire some empathy, see vulnerabilities other youth are experiencing and ask “what can I do to contribute to the solution rather than the problem?”

What is one of the most powerful moments you’ve had working with educators involving the Nest Curriculum?

I would say what makes me want to do this work is seeing some of the teachers who were at the very first pilot show up to teacher trainings year-after-year. Those teachers have already been through the training, they don’t have to come, they’ve already taught this themselves. But, they keep coming back because they think they’ll learn something new. To me, that is a mark of a great program.

What’s next?

I’ll keep working with Nest as long as they want to keep working with me. I really love the work. 

Also, I would add that right after President Trump was elected, funding shifts happened dramatically and drastically. Orgs like Nest took a hit, funds went to the ACLU. I want to be cognizant that we don’t swing the funding pendulum too far away from work like this. So my final statement if I could add one would be that funding this curriculum and this programming is vital because we are seeing a rollback in the education system on important things like anti-violence and exploitation. We need funders to step up and show that this is important to individuals and that we aren’t going to stop doing this work just because the federal government doesn’t find it important.