Lindsey Simbeye and Lexi Miller: Diversity is important topic for youth
On Oct. 14, Grand Futures took a group of Teen Council students from Hayden and Steamboat Springs high schools to the first annual Mountain West Diversity Conference in Gypsum. The conference allowed students to converse with peers from other mountain towns about diversity issues they see in their communities and schools.
The conference was arranged by Youth Celebrate Diversity, a Denver-based group that holds a Diversity Conference in Cherry Creek every February. The Mountain West Diversity Conference was held specifically for the groups that have difficulties crossing the I-70 corridor during winter.
The Teen Council members who attended the conference learned about hate crimes, stereotypes, self care, the Holocaust and disabilities. They participated in many activities including a fake trial and discussion groups specifically tailored to bring these issues to the forefront.
Students who attended made a wide array of connections with peers from various different backgrounds and ethnicities, many of which are not represented in the Yampa Valley. It was an eye-opening experience and brought to life the struggles others go through in their day-to-day lives that many of us in our small communities overlook.
The opening and closing ceremonies were very engaging and Teen Council attendees were inspired by Carlotta Walls LaNier, who was a part of the Little Rock Nine during school desegregation in the 1940s. The closing ceremonies also included a performance by SF1, a Denver performance group who played african drums, rapped and tap danced.
As a take-away from the event, Teen Council members discussed ways to become more diverse in their own schools and local environment.
A student from Hayden is exploring ways to include more students who may feel left out of alternative activities, including extending personal invitations to attend. Students from Steamboat Springs are looking at ways to diversify their friend groups by having lunch with students they may not engage with on a normal basis.
Diversity is an important topic for our youth and bringing those issues to light through discussion is one way we can spark change within our own communities. Conversing with peers from other walks of life helps students feel heard and walk away with the idea that they too can have an impact and a voice in their communities.
Grand Futures would like to thank Routt County United Way and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation for their continuous support of our Teen Council program, as well as our partners at the Parks and Recreation Department of Steamboat Springs. We would also like to thank Partners in Routt County for allowing us the use of their van to transport group to and from this important event.
Lindsey Simbeye and Lexi Miller
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