Listening to Youth

What if we truly listened to our young people? How would our world change? On November 2nd, over 60 youth gathered at the History Colorado Center to take part in the 4th annual Colorado Young Leaders (CYL) Base Camp, a youth-led leadership conference created by CYL’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB)

Today’s youth are sick of being shut down and are sick of being told to wait. In a time where anyone, anywhere can access news from across the globe, youth are aware. Aware of the world they are inheriting. Aware of the decisions that are being made by adults without thought of the future. They see other youth like Greta Thunberg and Emma Gonzalez speaking out about issues that impact not only the world but their futures. They want to see the changes and they want to see it now. 

Not only did the Youth Advisory Board want to provide a platform for youth to share their story, but they wanted to lift up and have these voices Be Heard by adults. Base Camp: Be Heard was created by CYL’s Youth Advisory Board to be a platform to hear voices from teens all across Denver, to give these youth tools and inspiration to use their unique voice to share their story, and to connect with other teens to unite to create change. 

By utilizing community resources, youth were able to explore unique ways to get involved in the community. We heard from a CYL alum, Johnny Hultzapple, who shared his own personal story of how he found his voice and platform to create change. By being vulnerable, he inspired a sense of purpose in the 60 teens in attendance. CYL Senior and YAB President, Riley, shared her current CYL Legacy project of creating a platform to amplify youth voice through a youth-led Instagram platform, @hearourvoices303, to address issues in Denver. 

Youth explored Colorado historical issues and were inspired at the History Colorado’s What’s Your Story exhibit. Author Susan Skog, of Your Voice Matters: Speak Up, Speak Out, used her platform to share inspiration from teens all across the globe to empower youth. We invited our friends and non-profit partners to share the change they are creating in Denver and how youth can get involved in their efforts. From our partners like the Tipi Raisers, Project Voyce, Environmental Learning for Kids, and Blue Bench, teens learned that no, they don’t have to wait until they’re older to create change.

At CYL, we value unique leadership styles. Not everyone leads by speaking in front of a large group of people. Sure, that’s an important leadership skill. But we also want to lift up the writers, the performers, the poets, the artists. Each person has their own unique way to share their story. At Base Camp, we heard from unique voices across Denver and their vision for a better world and the change they want to see in the world. Youth from East High School shared their poster to address sexual assault prevention. Youth from Green Valley Ranch performed a rap of their vision for a more united world. Youth from Highlands Ranch shared their collaborative artwork to address youth mental health and teen suicide. Youth, who were strangers at the start of the day, performed a skit together to showcase their unique passions and the collective change they can make if they work together. At Base Camp: Be Heard, surrounded by their peers, parents and community members, youth were given a platform to share their story. 

By listening to our young people, and truly listening, we can learn something about what’s important in the world. By listening to our young people our world can be more united, more sustainable, more connected. 

August 27, 2020