Giving youth a voice

Local leaders team up to host youth forum June 11

Giving youth a voice is important. But, just as important is listening to what they have to say.

That’s why Federal Way Councilman Jesse Johnson has teamed up with local media company, Rugged Genius, to host a youth forum from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 11, at Decatur High School, 2800 SW 320th St.

The event will feature a student panel.

“We have all of the high schools – all six, actually, including the alternative schools – that nominated three students reps from each school, and they are going to be part of the panel,” Johnson said.

The event is student-led.

“We really want to give youth a platform to talk about a number of things, like what matters to them in terms of the city, what direction Federal Way is headed, what is happening in their schools and the local and national issues,” Johnson said.

The idea for the forum stemmed from a recent barbershop talk Johnson hosted.

“One of the things we noticed, we wanted it to be questions from the youth, and the adults just took over the conversation. The youth were kind of just sitting there,” he said. “One of the youth from Decatur afterward said to me, ‘we need to do this in the schools but we want us to have a voice in it, not just the adults.’”

The goal of the forum is to give youth that voice while also having adults listen.

Johnson has invited local leaders, as well as state legislators representing Federal Way, to attend the forum.

“I want them to be there to listen,” Johnson said. “From there, the conversation could go a number of ways. It would be nice at the end to get a sense of what folks thought of it.”

Dennis Lamont Styles, one of the founders of Rugged Genius who is helping to facilitate the forum, said it is important to engage the youth.

“Most times people don’t ask the kids what they think,” Styles said. “A lot of the things that affect them, it is more so the adults up here fighting and then saying this is what they need. But they don’t really get what they need. They have the answers. … They know everything that is going on in the schools. How come we don’t use them as a source for the solution?”

Bringing the community together is key to finding solutions, Styles said.

“There is a gap between the older generation and the younger generation,” he said. “This is kind of an attempt to bridge that gap. We really want to know what is on their mind. The whole platform is for us to sit back and give them a platform because if you actually listen to them speak, they’re not as lost as we think that they are.”

In addition to the panel discussion, the event will also feature a resource fair beginning at 5:30 p.m. There will be opportunities for youth to connect with local resources as well as register to vote.

Refreshments will be provided by the Federal Way Youth Action Team and Keyz to the Kitchen catering.

Pizza Pizazz will supply the school that has the most students at the forum with a pizza party.

Jesse Johnson

Jesse Johnson

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