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Give youth a voice

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By The Staff

This week as we look at the asset that defines using youth as resources. The local data shows that 31 percent of youth in our community feel so inclined.

Assets In Action is working in conjunction with the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and other community groups to provide youth a voice for input to their meetings.

If you have a youth willing to fill such a role, give me a call or drop me an e-mail. It will be my goal to get input from a variety of students. If you have a youth who is willing to e-mail me, text me, or fill out a form, that would be great.

When I was first part of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, even prior to its inception, I thought we needed to hear from the average student. I always felt like we needed to hear from the kids who tended to get in trouble.

I was never a kid who got in trouble, so I couldn’t be some voice of logic to say what kids needed to keep them on the good path. I think we need to hear from kids who are having issues that, when we were kids, we never would dream could exist today.

The way youth can have input is varied. If they want to speak in front of a group, I can make that happen. If they’d like to provide input anonymously, I can make that happen, too. I know a variety of community groups would love input on many youth issues that determine how their funding and their goals roll out for each year.

A few years back, JJAB along with the DWI Council hosted a town hall style meeting where youth not only had their own break out session, but were invited to provide input in every aspect of the program. I was so impressed with one young gentleman, who shall remain nameless, for speaking up about what it can be like for an average high school student. The group listened and the feedback was provided on a larger scale to many agencies.

One of the things I find most often in my work is that if a student gets in trouble once, they often feel pegged for life. They feel that every adult, every staff member, every neighbor views them as a troublemaker. If you know a student who has gotten in trouble, try to stop looking at the situation as their defining moment in life. I’m sure a good number of adults made mistakes as youth that they were glad were never held against them for the rest of their life.

While we can’t solve every problem or issue for youth, we can always listen and sometimes that is enough. If we try and make everything perfect for our children, they don’t learn the important life lesson that sometimes comes with the experience of being disappointed, not getting your way or, darn it, just not working out the way we want. To that I say, welcome to the real world.

However, the fact that decision-making bodies want to hear from youth to see what is on their minds is a major step for all of the youth in the community. Perhaps you know students who have great ideas, but know they have parents who never listen. Perhaps you know youth who feel like no one cares what they think, well have I got a venue for them.

If you work with a group of students in a classroom, youth group or even one-on-one who would like to provide some general feedback, I’ll send you some questions. If you have a child who would like to gain some experience in addressing a board of adults to vent their side of the story, let me know.

We as a community have a lot we could learn from our youth, if we just take the time to listen.

Bernadette Lauritzen is the Assets Coordinator for Los Alamos. The program is sponsored by the JJAB and the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce. To schedule a program, request a weekly newsletter or have other inquiries visit www.AssetsInAction.info. She can be reached at 661-4846 or via e-mail at AssetsInAction@att.net.