Amplifying Youth Voice Sessions

Last night was the second session of four in which a group of teens gathered together with local law enforcement to have a facilitated conversation around the current climate and what’s happening here in Clark County. The conversation was a good one and some key community leaders, including Vancouver’s Mayor, were listening in.

Back in July Temple Lentz, Diana Avalos Leos, Jenny Thompson, & Mariele Balasbas gathered together to discuss how we could get our young people involved in the conversation of what’s happening in Southwest Washington. Both the City and the County were having listening sessions, but we as a group felt we were missing the voice of our teens, a voice that we believed was vital to hear in these times.

Thus we hatched a plan: why don’t we do our own listening sessions just for our young people? We could do a series of conversations with the same teens and same officers and in the end our youth would share their recommendations of how we could better build trust in our community and work towards anti-racism. We would record these sessions so we could share with the community at large.

This plan became a reality and we brought in Tyler Monk from The Underdog Mentality to facilitate and the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington pledged to support this endeavor financially. Now we just needed the teens and officers. So as a group, representing our organizations (PAL of SWWA, Clark County Latino Youth Conference, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington, & Ready to Rise), we started to recruit and our first session was in August!

So for this month’s youth spotlight we are giving a shout out to these 15-17 young people who have committed to having some tough and very real conversations with local law enforcement (Vancouver Police Department, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and Washington State Patrol are represented). We are proud of you. Proud of your courage to be vulnerable and proud of your example to your peers. The conversations are getting deeper and we are all learning more about each other.

Our first two sessions will be shared via the partner organization’s social media in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out. And let’s all not forget to listen; especially to our youth because they often speak truth in ways adults could never articulate.