Youth Voices Heard

Youth Voices Heard
Posted on 12/06/2019
Youth Voices HeardStudent Voices Heard | 2019 YWCA Youth Summit

Each year, approximately 100 high school students from around the Twin Tiers participate in a Youth Summit that is student led, and provides an opportunity for youth to recommend initiatives that address issues important to them.

On December 5, youth from our region worked together to narrow down the issues, look at the possible causes and develop ideas to address their concerns in our schools and communities. At the conclusion of the day, students and faculty moderators hosted a “Community Report Out Session” for members of our community at the YWCA Elmira. Students presented their ideas where they discussed issues such as Social Media, Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Our student’s perspectives were just as expected; insightful, inspiring and full of hope.

So what were some of the students’ solutions to issues facing their generation?

Social Media

How does social media effect your life? Students say it can negatively impact others mental health when used irresponsibly, it can influence someone to change appearance and other things about themselves, it is a tool for spreading rumors, it can cause relationship problems and it can cause fights and violence.

So what are the solutions to these effects? Student’s talk about the importance of privacy settings, reporting social media concerns to trusted adults, don’t believe everything you read and see on the Internet, and make sure you do your research on information you see. Basically, own your ability to stop false information from spreading!

Substance Abuse

What are the consequences of substance abuse? Students reported that substance abuse can happen as easily as a peer pressuring you into trying something at a party. This can lead to abuse. Relationships suffer, families can be broken, lifelong trust issues can manifest, and friendships are adversely affected.

So what are the solutions? Raise awareness! Stories are impactful in sharing the negative consequences of substance abuse. Educational videos, with testimonials, can be impactful especially if the video highlights the issues friendship troubles, physical health problems and overall control of a substance over your life.

Students explain that there’s an undeniable connection between mental health and substance abuse. Being proactive about educating students on both can help the students who are suffering.

Mental Health

“Be the First to Notice.” Students are urging their peers to ‘make the change.’ So what are the obstacles? There’s always going to be expectations and stress that will affect people. How can we get people to join groups and stay committed?

We think there’s a lack of understanding. Mental health has been overlooked by many others because of the lack of understanding of one’s situation. Without the understanding, there is a lack of empathy, resulting in student’s talking about mental health or not taking it seriously.

We propose that school’s host assemblies promoting and educating student's on how to be more empathetic and help others. Peer groups in schools and taking the time to check on others are key to understanding the problems and helping to solve them.