The NWLA Teen Advisory Committee vice president, Robert Lawrence and other members presented to Step Forward’s Leadership at the beginning of October to discuss the TAC’s position statement and areas of key concerns.
We, the members of Step Forward’s Teen Advisory Council, establish our key focus areas: education, health, and engagement. In these areas, we will seek to engage with youth continually, inform adults, and pursue meaningful policy change.
Today’s schools are environments in which resources are limited, yet excellence is the expectation. The role of counselors as advisors or mentors has been increasingly constrained, leaving students to make many choices uninformed and alone. With an emphasis on standardized testing and state-mandated curriculum, students m ay lose the information and support needed to seek individual paths. Students on a non-university career track may be overlooked and provided with less information regarding all options after high school. Furthermore, valuable life-skills training is limited in high school, leaving many students lacking relevant skills for adult life.
As the high-stakes school environment proliferates, high school students often experience increasing mental health challenges. Yet, due to overburdened school counselors, students may lack a valuable resource in dealing with such issues. Additionally, mandated health education courses, to which are required for all students, lack information about mental health challenges and coping methods within the curriculum. Due to limited formal help in dealing with such struggles, students must turn to outside aid which is not integrated within the school system.
Students today are increasingly isolated from the world around them. Too often, students fear their voices will be ignored and their opinions may be rejected by the adult society, leaving a destructive sense of apathy. There is a lack of opportunity and resources for students to engage with their com m unities. Without question, students have big ideas and an eagerness to be active within their schools, communities, and cities; however, the perceived systemic rejection of youth voice has left students feeling powerless.