For many District teens, concerns about safety and economic survival come before everything else. It is hard to plan a future or pick up a new hobby when your community is frequently struggling to cope from one tragedy after another.
Organized by the DC Girls Coalition and co-sponsored by Black Swan Academy, Critical Exposure, DC Action and the YWCA National Capital Area, all District teens were invited to the third annual Youth Summit at the Thurgood Marshall Center For Services to speak to city leaders about their concerns.
Media outlets such as DC News Now, WUSA, FOX5, WJLA covered the event and interviewed students. The issue of gun violence was particularly pressing since 13-year-old Karon Blake had just been murdered by a District employee who thought Blake might be breaking into a car.
The event kicked off with several spoken word performances from students sharing their frustrations about topics including drug usage and unfair treatment based on gender.
Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau and Brooke Pinto, along with representatives from OSSE, the DC Department of Health, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and the DC Department of Human Services gave statements affirming their commitment and dedication to help come up with solutions.
Scattered across the basketball court, students sat at tables with the District leaders to have more intimate discussions. Each group then presented their issues. The recurring themes were:
- Making schools comfortable and healthy spaces by:
- Improving mental health support mental health support
- Ending teacher and student bullying particularly towards students who are Black and/or LGBTQIA+
- Improving school sanitation
- Adding more nurses and counselors
- Providing better sex education
- Making schools safer by:
- Addressing gun and gang violence
- Stopping the frequent invasion of privacy
- Making schools a place where students can thrive by:
- Offering more afterschool programs and extracurricular activities
Together, coalition members will continue to follow up with the Councilmembers and agencies and make sure they are held accountable. Our youth deserve to be considered, valued, and protected.