In today’s society, youth are rarely seen as the forefront of positive change. And how could they be? So many negative stereotypes and prejudice attitudes circle around them, making it impossible for people to see what they’re truly capable of. This makes me upset knowing that their ideas, opinions, and most importantly, their voices, are being silenced. A connection between youth, adults, and community are essential in trying to create positive social change, and it’s about time people realize this.
A great example of how youth use their voices to help others stems from a restorative justice program in a Chicago High School. This school once made headlines after an honor student was beat to death on his way home by gang members. Now, the school has been looked at once again, this time in a much more positive light. They have come up with a program that allows youth to discuss their issues in a peaceful way in a “peace room”. It is comprised of a peer jury, peace circles, and supportive listening. Students can talk about problems they are having (in school, at home, etc) and find ways in which they could solve these problems in a constructive way. Also, it is a place where youth can feel comfortable in and be heard by others.
I think that this is a great outlet for the students in this zero tolerance school. This “room” makes me think about the Youth Development Ideologies that were discussed in class. This idea connects with positive youth development and how important it is to create environments that provide positive external assets (school climate, empowerment, etc) to foster positive internal assets (positive attitudes, commitment to learning, etc). Additionally, this restorative justice program brings to mind the article written by Adeola Oredola called In a World Where Youth Hold the Power. Her main idea from the article corresponds with the idea that young people have the ability to make positive changes in their communities. With “talking peacefully”, they are able to do just that. Not only are they helping to build their communities, but they are also building trust between one another—a relationship that helps both parties.
Fenger High School : http://www.whatkidscando.org/featurestories/2013/09_restorative_justice/