Youth Voice Youth Vote Day 4

We started the morning with juicy debriefs of Friday, starting with reflection of the workshops groups conducted in schools throughout New York City. We asked them:

  • How did it feel to share your passion for an issue with other students? What worked and what didn’t?
  • What did you learn?
  • How did you feel?
  • What might you do differently if you were sharing with another group in the future?
  • At this point do you think you are more or less committed to civic action than when you arrived?

We followed this with reflection about the Broadway show we’d seen the night before, “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which focused on the playwright Heidi Schreck’s reflections on this founding document’s impact on rights and citizenship for four members of women in her family through the lens of her teenage self’s participation in Constitutional debate competitions across the United States. The play really resonated with and moved students, and gave them heightened perspective on some of the issues we confront. Each small group wrote a thank you to Heidi and co:

Next up, an absolutely incredible panel sharing their thoughts and reflections on “A Life of Activism” facilitated by the impeccable Barrington Foster from Brooklyn College Academy. Panelists included:

Brianna Cea, Generation Vote

Ramon Contreras, Activist and Founder of Youth Over Guns

Adina Greenidge, Policy Analyst, Capstone DC

Lila Nordstrom, Vote Captain

Jonathan Pillot, We Are All 18

Chi Ante Singletary, Youth Engagement Fund

Sophie Mode, Teens Take Charge

Panelists introduced themselves, sharing who they are, what they do, and how they feel they’ve made the most difference.

Barrington posed scintillating questions to them:

  • We had the opportunity to see What the Constitution Means to Me last night. We are wondering, as activists who work with youth, what–if anything–do you think needs to be preserved in our Constitution and what would you like to see changed?
  • How do you feel we, the people in this room, can most effectively engage youth in becoming more focused and active in civic issues?

Then, it was time to open up to (excellent) questions from our assembled students and (insightful) answers from panelists

We emerged VERY inspired and invigorated. And very hungry. Time for another “power pizza” lunch while some participated in an excellent workshop on constituency-building and base-building, led by Brianna and Garrett of Generation Vote.

After lunch, it was time for Roundtables on Making a Political Difference. Nine wonderful intergenerational allies facilitated rotating small group conversations to help us synthesize our learnings from the past three days through discussing things like:

  • What has been surprising, frustrating or uplifting as you became more engaged in your civic self this year?
  • Why are young people’s voices and views not heard as much in politics and what can we do to change these outcomes?
  • At this polarized time in our country, what ideas do you have for how we can work across various lines of difference while honoring core beliefs?
  • How can we work in concert to help young people feel that their voices AND their votes matter?
  • What’s ONE lesson about the political process that you’ve learned and will take back to your communities?

Responses to the question about engaging with different perspectives were particularly interesting:

Invigorated and equipped with new knowledge, skills, and friendships, we returned to our school based groups to synthesize our learnings and plan the path ahead–what are we bringing back with us? What do we want to share with our schools/communities/constituencies about our experiences this year and the path forward?

One last segment remained of the formal conference. Throughout the weekend, the remarkable Lavie Raven had been leading students in mural development, creating an enormous canvas upon which to capture our individual and shared experiences and insights. Each school was given a section to decorate with a reflective poem or piece of prose.

To culminate the formal part of our convening (AKA before the dance party…), we walked the mural outside, unfurled it, basked in the beauty and power of it, and a representative from each school read their piece.

As a final act, we cut the mural into pieces, enabling each school to take home a piece of the larger whole, symbolizing how interconnected we will remain.