Youth Congress 2019

Youth Congress 2019: Where Youth Voices Meet Open Ears
Posted on 12/12/2019
Youth Congress 2019
Where Youth Voices Meet Open Ears

DENVER -- For 14 years, Douglas County students have been connecting with local public officials at the Youth Congress event, held annually at the Colorado State Capitol building. Through discussion and collaboration, students spoke out on ideas relevant to their generation.
Most importantly, the students were in the same space as Douglas County lawmakers who openly listened.

“There’s definitely a difference between someone hearing you and someone listening to you,” says Liz Tennyson, a Junior at Legend High School.

Here at Youth Congress, everyone knows why the youth voice is important to lawmakers.

“They have such fresh ideas on issues affecting their generation,” says Marsha Alston, the Youth Services Program Manager for Douglas County. “Community leaders and policy-makers need to hear from them.”

For the 2019 Youth Congress, students closed the gap between hearing and listening by leading the breakout sessions themselves. Students discussed several different topics including Mental Health, Youth Voice, Prosocial Behaviors, Substance Abuse, and Transportation. By the end of the day, students were tasked with creating an action plan and presenting before the group.

Oasis Mental Health FoundersThese action plans could be the start of a movement, much like the Oasis Mental Health program, which was born from the minds of students at ThunderRidge High School after conversations at Youth Congress in 2018. The non-profit is thriving today after winning a $100,000 grant at Denver Startup Week and is living proof of students enacting tangible change in their communities from a simple idea.

In the meeting of the minds this year, youth challenged youth.

“Will you choose to leave behind the work you do here today or will you invoke the change you wish to see,” asked Legend High School Junior Krystal Tanner.

Perhaps the students who attended will use their action plans to start something new in their communities, or lawmakers will incorporate the youth voice into policy decisions. Either way, Youth Congress will continue to connect students with leaders for years to come.

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