During the “Students of Style” Youth Summit, we were able to hear over 400 students’ voices from a myriad of schools throughout the Denver Metro Area. Through the conversations that they had with young professionals and leaders throughout the community, students were able to express their most pressing needs to be successful in the future.
As a direct result of this year’s “Students of Style” Youth Summit, Young Adults for Positive Action has been meeting with principals in order to create a monthly leadership program for the student leaders who attended the conference. Each month, Young Adults for Positive Action will address the themes that were discussed during the conference: community leadership, education, social justice, and workforce development – in order to see how we can create more opportunities for: access, positive relationships, cultural relevance and response, and accountability.
At the youth summit, students were able to hear from a dynamic group of professionals from across the Denver Metro community. Angela Robertson, Principal of P.U.S.H. Academy, opened the morning by encouraging the young leaders to be positive models before they moved into break-out panels that addressed community leadership, education, social justice, and workforce development. The closing charge from State Senator Mike Johnston reminded the students to know who they are and to be consistent in their pursuit of education.
Thanks to the support of Mile High United Way, we were able to document the students’ voices. From the conversations in the sessions, their voices were clear!
Denver Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, and the Community, at large:
Students Want Access
Although they understand the importance of networking and connecting with like-minded business people, they do not understand how to identify networks or what resources are available in their community. Students are looking for more resources for internship experiences and to further their education. Additionally, students are looking for wraparound resource services for not only their own families, but for their friends, as well.
Students Want Relationships
These young men and women want to know that they not only have the support of their teachers, neighbors, and other adults in the community, but that they have acceptance. They need positive people in their lives that do more than just give orders. Particularly, students look forward to the experience of dialogue, mentorship, and example with the people that are connected to them.
Students Want Cultural Relevance and Cultural Response
Many of the students want to know ways that they can deal with discrimination in a positive and productive manner when at school, and for their careers. They are seeking the tools necessary to articulate the struggles they encounter on a daily basis and ways to overcome the discrimination they face in order to have successful futures. Particularly, students look forward to the experience of dialogue, mentorship, and example with people that are connected to them.
Students Want Accountability
Despite the fact that some adults argue that we should lower the bar for young people to “raise morale,” students are not only looking for a high expectations culture, they want to be held accountable for the work that they do. The young men and women we saw today were thirsty to learn more and eager for the opportunity for more rigorous coursework and teachers.
In order to solve these issues, it is imperative that the community continues to understand the partnership and collaboration that comes from leveraging our resources. We will spend the next sixty days not only following up with students, but also speaking with school leaders to hold them accountable for student success. In order to ensure the success of students, it is important for school leaders to be receptive to students’ voices.
Schools should be intentional about partnering with community resources, such as the Z Place Network and Zoom Sites. Z Place is a comprehensive, community-based early childhood and family support center and network that includes a full range of innovative learning and community services designed to enhance the lives of children, families, and communities. Intentional collaboration is fostered between partners at Z Place by means of the Internal Referral System, Z Place newsletter, partners meetings, and strategic management.
Partners throughout the Z Place network are working to ensure that not only are students’ voices heard, but that we make an intentional game plan to answer these young men and women’s requests.