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Douglas County Teens Attend Youth Congress at the State Capitol

On September 25, over 130 students who live in Douglas County attended Youth Congress held at the Colorado State Capitol Building.  Students in grades 9-12 participated.  This event was sponsored by the Douglas County Youth Initiative.  The day started in the Colorado Assembly room where the students were given a presentation about the state of Colorado budget and how the tax dollars are distributed.  After this interactive session, teens broke into small groups to tackle and discuss some of the issues facing their daily lives which included mental health,  truancy, curfew, and recreation for teens.  These groups were led by adult experts in their fields.  At the end of the day, each student group presented their topic to the entire youth congress. 

By having a day like this, adults that work in our government and in Douglas County are able to gather the opinion and voices of today’s youth.  For example, students were asked  to anonymously answer the following questions:

  1. What is one thing your parents would be surprised about if they knew this was going on among teenagers at school?
  2. What is the biggest social challenge students face at your school?
  3. What makes teens feel disconnected to school?
  4. What is your thought about school suspensions? (Effective?  Or  Not Effective?)

Their responses were varied and transparent.  Responses included but were not limited to:

Things parents / adults might not know about:

We have sex
We make casual suicide jokes
High use of drugs, weed, vape, gateway drugs, adults don’t really care, they are just there for the “look”
Alcohol and juuling (e-cigarette) use
Easy access to heroin & other drugs
 

Social Challenges:

Self-image
Confidence 
Making friends
Fitting in
Acceptance 
Being in high school
Peer pressure 
Feeling alone 
Finding your identity 
Stress out about grades
Being yourself
 

Why are teens disconnected to school:

Standards to succeed
Guns 
Bad grades
Comparisons 
Cliques
Too much stress 
Poor social climate at the schools 
No voice 
Color of my skin 
Not having people comfortable to talk to, including teachers
 

Your opinion about the effectiveness of school suspensions:

Not effective, not a punishment, not even slightly
Getting days off is not effective
Making kids miss school defeats the purpose-- kids want to get out of school
Effective: looks terrible on record
Useless
Effective if it’s a real problem that benefits from the student being removed in general; it may be good for some, bad for others
Not effective with truancy issues 
Kids continue to do the thing they got suspended for after the suspension is over

 

By using these anonymous responses and the work the students do at events like this, we can continue to use their voice in supporting their sense of safety and their growth.

October 25, 2017 | By CSilberman | Category: Mental Health, Prevention and School Culture

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