Teen Voice holds summit, creates survey

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Julia Oran” align=”alignright” width=”300″] Members of Newton’s Teen Voice gather every Wednesday to discuss teen life.
by Julia Oran

Junior Dan Elsen-Rooney said it is important for teens to “get our thoughts out there,” so he decided to join Newton’s Teen Voice, a group of Newton high school students who gather to discuss teen life in Newton.

Newton’s Teen Voice meets every Wednesday at Newton City Hall to “advocate for teens,” according to South senior Tiki Davidoff.  The group usually consists of around 10 students from both this school and South.

In October, Newton’s Teen Voice organized and successfully completed the first Youth Summit in almost 10 years, which was hosted by mayor Setti Warren at Oak Hill.

Chris Fortunato, a teen life coach and the dean of students at Harvard Kennedy School, who founded Newton’s Teen Voice in the fall of 2010, said the goal of the event was “to help parents and the larger community understand the challenges facing our teens, to have teens authentically express their experiences and to coalesce as a community to support teens.”

Tom Pomeroy, adviser to Mayor’s Public Service Interns, said that the Youth Summit focused on stress, specifically relationship stress, academic stress and risk behaviors.

He said, “The members of our group shared personal narratives and played an integral role in the leadership of the breakout groups at this summit.”

Pomeroy added, “The Summit did not have any immediate effects, but the beginning of the conversation is an important step to meaningful change.

“Several issues were identified at the Summit as contributors to stress in teen’s lives. We are working to narrow the focus of these issues and will be forming action groups so that changes can be pursued.”

Junior Charlie Goldberg, who is also involved in the Newton’s Teen Voice, said that he thought the Youth Summit went well because “people showed up and seemed interested.”

He added that in the future he hopes the program will have a “larger voice” and “our thoughts will be heard by more people.”

Last year, Newton’s Teen Voice worked with San Diego State University to develop Alcohol eCHECKUP TO GO (e-CHUG), which is an interactive web survey for teens that asks questions about their use of alcohol and drugs and then provides them with relevant information regarding alcohol and drugs. The goal of this survey is to reduce serious risk related to drinking alcohol.

In general, Newton’s Teen Voice collaborates with the Newton Youth Commission to spread their thoughts and to improve the life of teens in Newton.

According to South senior Jay Sobel, the Newton Youth Commission was a group of adults that examined youth life in Newton, but “didn’t really have any perspective” because there was only one teen volunteer, South senior Zach Eagle.

Similarly, Pomeroy said, “Prior to this Newton’s Teen Voice’s involvement, there was very little youth participation in the discussions held by the Youth Commission.”

Eagle said he became involved in the Newton Youth Commission and then Newton’s Teen Voice to “better the lives of Newton teens” and because its important to “have some say in youth life.”

South junior Ado Moshe joined the group because he said it is “fun and interesting” and South senior Sophie Veksler said she want to “be involved in the community.”

Elsen-Rooney commented that he hopes Newton’s Teen Voice will inspire “further dialogue between parents and kids” who need to “just talk.”

Newton’s Teen Voice is looking for more members, especially underclassmen. Any high school students are welcome to join. To get more information, contact Fortunato at [email protected]. To talk to a student, email Veksler at [email protected] or Davidoff at [email protected].