Community States of Young People

In six communities across the U.S., young people designed virtual events with community leaders including organizations, schools, and municipal agencies to address pressing social issues, foster collaboration between youth and community leaders, and spur action.

In each community, young people led the planning and execution of a community-wide event to discuss challenges like insufficient mental health supports in schools, racial microaggressions, and adults not listening to the voices of youth.

Each of the following sections provides deeper insight into each community’s journey and what happens when young people are not only at the table, but also setting the table and the agenda.

300
Throughout 2021
Missouri, New York, South Carolina, and New Mexico,
300

Key takeaways and outcomes:

The Communities:

St. Louis and Sikeston, Missouri
St. Louis and Sikeston, Missouri

Young people often do not define “safety” the same way adults do and recognize that students in different schools have different experiences of “safety.” From School Resource Officers to self-care, seven students from various districts across Missouri will lead their peers in discussing the importance of school safety and what steps are needed to be taken to ensure the wellbeing of all students and school staff. 

quote marks
Cherokee County, South Carolina
Cherokee County, South Carolina

Cherokee County FIT2gether and Thrive-U youth are designing and hosting a summit for middle and high school students as a call to action for youth voice, power, and unity. Topics will include wellness, equity, COVID-19, social unrest and polarization, educational experiences, and disrupting stereotypes, all with the goal of creating access and opportunities for everyone to be their best in Cherokee County.

quote marks
Staten Island, New York
Staten Island, New York

This youth-led virtual convening will focused on how mental health issues and racial injustice affect Staten Island youth. Young people from various schools across Staten Island will work together to deeply explore these topics through an intersectional lens in order to develop and share youth-centered and sustainable recommendations for key decision makers, other youth, and the broader Staten Island community. 

quote marks
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida

Diverse youth advocates for social, racial, health, and environmental justice will lead this event, focusing on topics such as equity, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and collective strategies to elevate and sustain young people's voices.   The event will act as a call to come together as a community of young people—with and for one another. 

quote marks
Rochester, New York
Rochester, New York

This youth-led virtual convening will focus on how mental health issues and racial injustice affect Staten Island youth. Young people from various schools across Staten Island will work together to deeply explore these topics through an intersectional lens in order to develop and share youth-centered and sustainable recommendations for key decision makers, other youth, and the broader Staten Island community. 

quote marks
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Mission: Graduate, a project of the United Way of Central New Mexico, will partner with Learning Alliance of New Mexico. The organizations will convene young people to identify the issues most significant to youth and develop actionable next steps for community organizations, schools, and municipal agencies to partner with youth on a long-term, ongoing basis. 

Mental health issues, racial disparities and lack of technology access were problematic for New Mexico students prior to COVID-19. And the pandemic exacerbated those complications for students across Albuquerque Public Schools. 
Students from Gaffney High School and Ewing Middle School are planning to launch a podcast about mental health challenges, and scheduling meetings with town and county officials to keep the voices of youth at the forefront of decisions that affect them.
After watching their peers struggle with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of students in Cherokee County, S.C., hope to dispel stigmas around talking about challenges with anxiety, depression, suicide and other mental health conditions.
With the world gripped by a global pandemic and protests over police brutality raging across the U.S., young adults and teenagers played a significant role in the activism work that defined 2020.
A group of Albuquerque teens and young adults have big plans to tackle problems they see in area schools, including a lack of adequate mental health support for students and a school curriculum that does not incorporate enough diversity into assigned readings. 
St. Louis, Missouri -- Feeling safe in school was a problem in Missouri even before the pandemic added the unprecedented element of fear and anxiety of being exposed to a potentially deadly virus. 
For Justin Soyka, the crisis came in middle school. During his 8th grade year, he survived two suicide attempts, and was hospitalized twice before he was able to get help for his depression, ADHD and crippling anxiety.
St. Louis, MO - More licensed therapists on campus. Requiring parent or guardian participation in all school safety discussions. Implementing “calm rooms” where students can go to center themselves.
Generation Z - born roughly between the mid 1990s and early 2010s - has already made a name for itself due to its willingness to advocate for myriad social causes, from LGBTQ+ rights, abortion rights, and immigration to environmental consciousness.
Teens today are under a lot of stress: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the proportion of young people visiting an emergency department due to a mental health crisis climbed by 31 percent during the six months between April and October of 2020.
From protests against gun violence to the Black Lives Matter movement, the nation has recently seen young people take the lead on a wide variety of social movements. 

Resources: