Whether surrounded by teachers or parents, teens are often told to listen and obey first and ask questions later. Last Friday, teachers, lawmakers, mentors, ministers and parents gathered at the Fay Biccard Glick Neighborhood Center as local teens flipped the script and shared their perspectives with influential adults from across the city. This youth-led and youth-driven panel discussion was sponsored by the Bloom Project, Don’t Sleep and Tru Colors.
Brandon Randall of the Bloom Project says the event was inspired by the aftermath of a recent fight at Castleton Square Mall. After the fight, shoppers and concerned residents took to social media to comment on incident, and some comments were as nasty as the scuffle. Randall wanted to give youth a space to speak to the movers and shakers of Indy so they could share solutions to problems.
“Everything (on the news and social media) was about how reckless they were and how lazy they were, so we were like what do we need to do? We always talk for young people, but we wanted to know what we needed to do to let these young people start speaking for themselves. The goal of this event is to switch the dynamics of power. The panelists and moderators are all under the age of 19, and the audience are all adults,” said Randall
Aaliyah Coe, 19, a graduate of Shortridge High School and a student at Butler University, served as a moderator at the Tru Dialogue Youth Forum. She says she wanted to be a part of the event to bridge the gap between generations.
“Typically an adult won’t sit down and have a conversation with a student in middle school about a serious topic. They assume they don’t know what they are talking about. Sometimes it’s hard for youth to converse with adults and get their point across, but I’m in college and I’m between a youth and an adult. I wanted to be that bridge for them,” said Coe.
The event stayed true to its name. Rather than a sea of adults listening to young people lecture them from the stage, the bulk of the event took place at round tables full of conversation. Adults and youth alike were eager to share their viewpoints with each other in a quest to foster common ground and mutual understanding.
Coe believes the first step toward solving many youth-related issues is adults listening.
“The first step is to yield. Yield and listen. Be open to their opinions. I want them to continue to stand up and speak out in support of our youth,” said Coe.
Randall agrees: “The most consistent information has been the importance of actively listening to the youth and being able to engage them authentically … without the requirement of responding right away.”
Coe says her favorite suggestion from the event was the idea of a city youth board to work with influential adults to tackle youth issues.
“What I would like to see are actions on behalf of the adults who attended. Hopefully, I can reach out to everyone who attended and thank them for the presence,” said Coe.
The Bloom Project is a nonprofit organization seeking to build local youth into the next generation of leaders in their communities. For more information about future events, programs and services, visit bloomprojectinc.org.