Friday, September 26, 2008

The Connecticut YOUTH Forum: Straight Talk on Stereotypes

By Katlyn Knox, Executive Associate at The Connecticut Forum


This week, over 150 students from high schools all over the state of Connecticut kicked off the school year with the first monthly meeting of The Connecticut YOUTH Forum. Students from near and far came together in the cafeteria of Avon High School to listen, talk, and connect. This month’s focus: Stereotypes.

As a relatively new employee of The Connecticut Forum, this was the first YOUTH Forum meeting I have ever attended and I did not really know what to expect. I understood that the YOUTH Forum held monthly meetings that were focused on specific topics, and that adults could participate as silent observers, but I couldn’t imagine how this would work. I mean, more than 100 teenagers in a room engaging in civil and respectful dialogue…with microphones? Was this even possible? How?

I learned. I had heard that microphones would be passed…driven with minimal facilitation from adults, and I was absolutely blown away by the conversation I witnessed. To see such a large group of teens from very diverse walks of life speaking on their own accord about such a touchy subject was amazing. I was awestruck by the rawness, intelligence, and passion in their comments.

“It’s OK the be open minded, to have an opinion, and not be afraid to say what you want to say,said Tina, a Senior at New Britian High School.

And they weren’t afraid. The conversation was broad and heartfelt, with students defining what the word stereotype meant to them, and sharing their own experiences.


The highlight of the afternoon, to me, came when Kyle, a Freshmen at Rham High School stood up and explained an experience he h
ad.

“When we first started playing (hockey) everyone in the league was white, and there was one new black kid. We all assumed that that he would be the one that we probably wouldn’t be able to trust with plays and pass the ball to. He ended up being the fastest and highest scoring kid on our team.”

This young man, standing up in front so many other students and candidly admitting his own wrong, spoke directly to the mission of The Connecticut YOUTH Forum, which is to bring youth together through discussion and action while providing opportunities for growth and exploration.

I know that have grown from the experience of participating in this meeting as a silent observer. Days later, the comments and ideas that were expressed by those teens have stuck with me, kept me thinking, and have me looking forward to the next meeting.


Read more about the CT YOUTH Forum meeting at Avon High School in the Hartford Courant blog post, "Teens Talk Stereotypes at Avon HS."

For more information on The Connecticut YOUTH Forum, and how you can get involved, visit www.ctyouthforum.org or call (860) 509-0909 ext. 12

1 comment:

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