Positive Youth Voice

A few months ago I moved into a new wonderful apartment in the Broadmoor neighborhood.  And as with every move the colossal stress was physically, emotionally and spiritually debilitating.  The many challenges of moving left me with few resources, but during this time of change is exactly when I needed all my resources, because something always goes terribly awry.

The truck I reserved was not really reserved, the movers I hired were really, really late and now I was under pressure to get the move done quickly because the new truck was available for way less time. Heavy boxes of books (why in the world do I save so many books?), bulky kitchen equipment and 82 potted plants are just a few of the things I lugged in and out of that truck and up a flight of stairs.

My back was crippled and my spirit completely broken.

So when the door bell rang that night I was convinced it would be bad news and I would not be able to handle it. A young African-American male – and I do think it's important to mention his sex and ethnicity because the media generally tells only the negative side of this demographic – stood at my door with my little purse in hand. This small black purse held my car keys, all my credit cards, my driver's license, social security card and $400 in cash. He handed it to me and said he'd found it in the lock of my driver's side car door.  Pretty smart of me, huh? I, of course, thanked him effusively. As he left I looked to the street and saw he was joined by three other youths. This “gang” of youths all came to the same decision to do the right thing.

As many of you may know from reading my past blogs, I believe in the youth of New Orleans. I know they are capable of amazing things and truly believe they do not get enough positive recognition. I know these young men's moral behavior is the rule, not the exception. So today I wanted to share a great program that highlights positive youth voice.

In October 2010, New Orleans overwhelmingly voted for the complete overhaul of a broken New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD). As this overhaul moves forward with the selection of its first permanent leader, Partnership for Youth Development is sharing some ideas from the youth in our community.

It makes perfect sense that the youth, who will feel the biggest impact from the new leader's decisions, should have a voice in helping choose that leader.

“With our community partners, we are asking New Orleans children and youth what they need from a leader and are sharing their responses as the NORDC Chief Executive Officer final interview schedule moves forward,” says Shelly Stocker, director of operations for Partnership for Youth Development. “Every NORDC stakeholder agrees that creating exceptional service and opportunities for New Orleans children, youth and families is the ultimate goal of the Chief Executive Officer search. We are striving to reach this goal by sharing these direct pleas from youth to the adults who help shape their future.”

These videos are from youths with Urban League – College Track, Cafe Reconcile and the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies. Here, here, here and here are the links to their inspiring videos and one from the youths I work with at CP3 Afterschool.

"These videos are an effort to remind the public that young people should have a voice in this decision,” says Eric Jensen, director of youth engagement for the Partnership for Youth Development. “We want to help refocus this public conversation about what we should be talking about. The young people are what is important and the system we build around them. These videos are a way to insert their voice into the process and keep them engaged.”

Please share these links to help publicize positive youth voice. The youth in New Orleans are truly amazing. We must never lose sight of that fact. And if you are one of the youths who helped that old lady on S. Salcedo Street, I once again send you my deepest gratitude.

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