The South Miami Drug-Free Coalition and South Miami Senior High Cobrawesomeness Club held the sixth annual Youth Dialogue Day on February 18th at South Miami Senior High School. This event brings youth and community leaders together to hear teens’ concerns and find solutions. Attendees included law enforcement, school administrators, elected officials, non-profit and faith leaders, business leaders and health care providers and parents. The event places 42 high school students and 42 adults together, along with eight hot topics, with the goal of students expressing their views, opinions, fears and hopes about each topic. Small groups of four students and four adults sat together and the students discussed each topic for 15 minutes or so. The adults are encouraged to listen and validate the students concerns. Adults then rotated tables to begin the next discussion. The final round was a solution round ending with one adult and one teen from each table presenting a recap of each topic and the solutions discussed. Throughout the day, attendees are encouraged to write notes or thoughts on each subject and post them to a “Thought Wall”.
In planning the event Mercy Aycart, the Cobrawesomeness adviser and teacher, assisted the club members with a student survey to compile this year’s topics that included: social media, academic pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, peer pressure, school logistics and school and community safety. This year, the topic of academic pressure was discussed at great length. Most students expressed that there is so much testing, they are stressed and feel incredible pressure to perform well. After the event Ms. Aycart stated: “being a first year adviser of Cobrawesomeness, I didn’t know what to expect from this event but I was excited. It was a powerful experience that helped me understand that making learning fun for the students must to be a top priority. In a high stakes environment when testing is driving education, we must focus on the students, not the tests.”
Those new to the event, like Jessica Lancaster, are extremely impressed. Jessica told us: “This was a very important event and I was so glad I participated. This event promotes valuable communication between the students and adults. Now, if we were really listening, our next step is to proceed with change. Then we truly show these students that the community cares”.
For more information about the work of the South Miami Drug-Free Coalition, contact Alita Patterson Irigoyen at [email protected]