Memorial Day is Monday, May 30, and the Virgin Islands Office of Veterans Affairs, the American Legion, the Survivor Outreach…
I have had the incredible experience of being asked to be "Adult Advisor" by two St. John Youth Committee members, Hadiya Sewer and Jessica Samuel in their deep committment and desire to create a different kind of Community Forum for our St. John Youth called "Positive Rally and Summit for Peace and Change" held on Friday Aug. 14th. from 5:30 pm-9 pm.
One of the key beliefs held by these young women was that Youth needed to be reaching out to other Youth...advocating, inspiring and empowering them to get involved...find a way to engage Youth in asking why so many of our Youth are leaving school...involved in violence and over-all have so little hope in the future or the communities in which they live.
Hadiya Sewer once testified to our Legislative body for The St. John Youth Committee by saying: "It takes a Village to raise a child...where are the villagers?".
It was our hope that the youth of St. John would have a Rally that sent the message that the village of St. John loved them very much...that they wanted to listen to what they had to say...engage with their suggestions for solutions and find a way for youth to reach out to other youth in support and resources.
Those that attended this Rally saw the kind of Leadership that we have in our youth! These young people were largely responsible for finding sponsorships for this Rally; identifying issues that needed to be honestly addressed; panelists to discuss relevant youth issues...appearing on numerous radio interviews...sending individual letters to Commissioners and Senators to attend and listen to our Youth.
This is a very different approach to both how we identify Youth issues and come up with solutions.
Though we hear about Youth gangs in our territories...we have neglected to honestly look at why kids have the need to join gangs. Many of our youth are lost. they need adults to help them with emotional issues so that their many feelings can be dealt with before the knives and guns come out. We desperately need preventative and positive programs to engage them in issues that they experience as critical.
The key words here are : engage and empower. This can only be done through Leadership programs and experiences that tap into the incredible passion and intelligence of young 17 year olds like Hadiya and Jessica who know how to reach out to those their own age!
These many weeks of hard work done for the Rally provided even more valuable experiences: working within the Government system for acquiring permission for the event, support, government involvement and attendance; ways to solve interpersonal issues that surely arise anytime a group of individuals have major tasks to accomplish as a Team; the usual problems that one must deal with when plans go wrong (as they always will- and did with a Wapa hook-up problem...) the many hours of work reaching out to engage both the Community for food and drink donations as well as business support; and of course- the day of the Rally set-ups, clean-up; Thank You follow-ups; the program, food and volunteer organizing so that success is ensured. ..no small task as many of us adults know!
Throughout this "act of Love from Youth to Youth" my hope for this entire Territory has been restored. The committment to purpose; dedication to Youth; ability to work through issues that arised always conscious of the "big picture" versus petty issues-absolutely astounded me and made me proud to participate. The power of relationships was learned time and time again.
When we resolved feelings that came up- clearly, honestly and quickly-we were able to refocused on our mission "of the heart for Youth" our passion for success was restored ten-fold! Simply put- we transcended the little self for something bigger-others needs and "selfless service to others".
These young women have clearly demonstrated that it is time for us to open to new Leadership and new ideas. Our Event Chair Hadiya Sewer opened up the Rally with : "I feel very loved by The Village of St. John"...which clearly speaks to the response of support that was given these young Leaders. These youth organized, planned and carried the entire Event. I got to sit and marvel at who they are-and the incredible passion and Leadership that they clearly demonstrated that evening. Cheryl Francis who gave a most deeply-heart felt keynote address- kept saying to me "Where did you find these young people?"...yes-they are that amazing!
Once other Youth were invited to the microphone to participate in the discussions-it became evident that there are so many great potential Leaders out there-with raw passion for our issues and solutions to address them!
We need excellent Leadership Training Programs to harness this energy for youth to reach out to their fellow youth with hope for the changes that we need in our Communities!
We so often ask why we can't get young to partake in the programs that we as adults create.
My answer to that is we need to reach out to our Youth and find out from them...through discussion, dialog and our listening...what it is that they need from us.
Maybe it is our great need to control everything as adults that is getting in the way of engagement with our Youth?
I do know this for sure. These young women get a standing ovation for their hard working in creating a Rally for everyone to view Youth in a totally different light. There are so many great Youth out there that we need to partner with-to address our Youth issues of Program needs for the future. This is where our success lies. "We cannot always prepare our Future for youth but we can prepare our Youth for the Future."
I believe that this rally has planted some strong seeds for our St. John Community...in awareness and respect for who our Youth are and what they are capable of doing!
"The Villagers" who came out were of all cultural diversities...joined together in their love for our Youth. That in itself is big! It was clear that these young people can build bridges in our Community as well as impact other youth in making better decisions and dealing with personal issues that we often feel and experience. In fact-I have already heard our Youth say that we need Youth dialog and discussion on Race issues in the Territories.
To the many people who came out to support this Rally; Cheryl Francis, Commissioners La Verne Terre and Chris Finch; Senators Hill, Barshinger, Sen. Nellie O'Reilly's Chief of Staff Jay Wiltshire; Sen. Patrick Sprauve's representative; Officer Devon Fleming from VIPD; our esteemed Elder Guy Benjamin as well as the other panelists...you have done a wonderful thing for our St. John Youth. YOU showed how much you cared deeply about them! Our deepest Thanks. Bonny corbeil St. John Youth Committee-Rally Adult Advisor and Team Member.