Close to 60 high school students from Carroll, Grayson and Galax school districts were on hand to take part in the Southern Growth Policies Board’s “Youth” The Real Future of the South” forum. While there, the students discussed three different approaches for development and gave presentations.
The school districts partnered with the Crossroads Institute and the Virginia Cooperative Extension to make the forum, which was also going on in several other locations throughout the South, possible.
Crossroads Institute Executive Director Dr. Oliver McBride said normally, the Policies Board tries to have adults as central figures in these forums, but when local officials became aware of the topic for this year’s forum, they thought it would be appropriate for the area’s youth to have a voice, since the topic concerns them.
“When we heard about the topic, we thought it would be really exciting to engage our high school students,” McBride said. “We think it’s important to hear the youth voice in this discussion.”
During the morning session, students, who were split into three groups of close to 20, and led by moderators, brainstormed around the designated approaches. In the afternoon, they were further split and each group then gave short PowerPoint presentations.
The first approach discussed was “Focus on Youth Development,” which centered on opportunities that help youth discover their talents and skills development to help youth realize their full potential.
The second approach, “Realize the Value of Young People,” focused on how schools, governments, non-profit organization, religious organizations, businesses and others can benefit by creating opportunities for youth involvement and leadership.
The third approach, “Build Youth-Friendly Communities,” revolved around the idea of creating a quality of life in communities that is attractive to young people to keep youth local, but to also attract outsiders.
McBride said the ideas gleaned from discussing these topics will be sent to the Policies Board, which will look at the ideas from the Twin Counties as well as other areas that took part in the forum, for further action.
“As the result of today, what the students share through a questionnaire and a summary, will be sent to the Southern Group Policies Board and they will combine that information with other information from other community forums that are held,” McBride said. “At their annual meeting, they will issue a report and the information they have gathered will be a part of that.”
In addition, McBride was hopeful that area students might be able to share their ideas and perspective with local governing bodies. Many area leaders from the Twin Counties and Galax were present for the discussions.
“What we’re hoping for, is at the conclusion of this, to actually have our students be able to present something to these governing bodies, their insight from today,” McBride said.