On Saturday, February 25, Youth and Engagement Programs hosted a Youth Speakers Bureau Visioning Session that brought together youth and community stakeholders from across the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia metropolitan area (DMV). Participants came eager to engage as they explored if and how a youth speakers bureau might be able to help further elevate youth voice.
One participant called the experience “most beneficial and eye-opening,” adding that the experience expanded his understanding of the viewpoints and opinions of his peers and adults as they relate to the role that young people play in our civic life.
After an afternoon of dialogue and activities led by youth speakers bureau consultants Meta Williams and Toyia Taylor, a few things became clear.
Young people are engaged with the world around them.
Contrary to generational biases that label young people as disengaged, selfish, or lazy, youth participants at Saturday’s session attested to their generation being cognizant of the world around them. The case was made, in fact, that today’s youth are perhaps more engaged at earlier ages than generations past, because of advances in technology that place an abundance of information and the ability to connect at their fingertips.
Inter-generational dialogue is healthy, and there is both a need and demand for a trained corps of young people who can infuse youth voice into the decision-making processes that govern aspects of our lives.
As participants offered reflections on the afternoon’s events, many adults expressed how enlightening it was to hear young people speak so openly. So often, we see genuine candor and authenticity compromised because of titles or positions of authority in dialogue between young people and adults. The importance of creating a space for young people to feel free of those kinds of constraints was acknowledged and respected by all in attendance, and all agreed that the conversations had were better because of it.
It is not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ in regard to a youth speakers bureau.
Youth participants were adamant that they have voices and that they want to be heard. Adults responded to the question of demand with a resounding ‘yes;’ they want to hear from more youth more often.
The Youth Speakers Bureau Visioning Session was an open and honest experience that lent itself to a heightened understanding of the role that young people and their voices, experiences, and perspectives should play in the decision-making processes that govern our lives.