Some lose control, some lose hope,
Others need time to adjust.
Living in confusion and trying to cope
While the question burns:
“When will it end and turn to dust?”
We may never know the coming future
Nor can we ever change the past.
But let’s make the best of things as we endure
For nothing is ever permanent;
Nothing can forever last.
Excerpt from poem titled Trying Times by May M. Phyu
The second youth conference, just like the first one, was hosted in partnership with amazing youth leaders and a coalition of community-based organizations called the Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH).
The objective of this conference was to highlight the challenges students have had with distance learning, isolation and mental health.
Students expressed themselves creatively through art, poetry and the spoken word, communicating challenges such as:
However, our next generation does not stop with obstacles. They look for solutions, offer innovative ideas and effective coping mechanisms to not only get through these tough times, but also to improve our lives overall. Nikko Cabrera, a student at Oakland Tech speaks about how being part of the Attitudinal Healing Connection, a West Oakland non-profit focused on art and creativity as a means of healing, has helped build valuable life skills. AHC operates by 12 principles that serve as a guide for maintaining wellness in our daily lives. Nikko shared principle #8 with the conference attendees because he considers it extremely relevant and helpful for the current situation of isolation and uncertainty.
All principles play an important role in Nikko’s life and contribute to his sense of emotional well-being. Other activities that he finds important and engages in regularly are meditation and breathing methods, which is fascinating as it is something many adults struggle finding time and focus for. I was particularly impressed and touched by this young man’s insight on the different effects of the pandemic, depending on whether one is an introvert or an extrovert. Nikko, an introvert, shares a touching example where he almost lost a friend, who, as an extrovert, needed more of Nikko’s attention and time than Nikko needed from him. He also shares some of his art work which played an important part in his healing journey from some personal difficulties.
Art is a powerful tool for our young to cope with challenging times, and the adults should take note. Griffen Castillo, another voice for the youth, uses art in the form of the spoken word to express his thoughts:
“but that’s the way it goes, the way life flows,
a flower grows amidst the cold of its own soul again,
the concrete cracks and now we’re back
to where we’re from. so feel the thrum
of beating drums. and know that you are worthy
of the throne you seek, on which to rest your feet
cuz we ain’t rest for weeks,
and that don’t make you weak.
so when life gets bleak
Youth speaker and advocate Jonathan Piper II presented critical key statistics that paint a picture on the “State of the Youth” and he calls on adult leaders, some of whom are present, to speak to the actions they are taking. In the below slide, his call to action captures vital points:
The adults speaking at the end of the conference, Mr. Michael Scott, Principal of Castlemont High School, Ms. Lisa Carlisle, Director for Children and Young Adult System of Care for Alameda County, Mr. Matin Abdel-Qawi, Superintendent for all OUSD high school principals, applauded the students on their creativity, relevancy and the importance of the information they presented. They acknowledge the need to pause and listen to young people because they can clearly articulate what is needed. This second conference sends a strong message to all of us: Academics are not everything. In a critical time as we are living though now, the social and emotional needs of the students also need to be considered. And this may require more than just a laptop and a functioning Internet connection. Our youth need a lot more personal attention and care so they can thrive.
By Janine Grossmann @ Quest For You
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