The Center for Teen Empowerment in Rochester is helping the city’s youth use their voices to make positive change in the community.
Teen Empowerment’s annual Community Luncheon will put the spotlight on its talented Youth Organizers coming up on Thursday, May 2 at 11:30 a.m. at the Floreano Riverside Convention Center in Rochester.
Youth Organizer Destiny Ford and TE’s Lead Program Coordinator Shawn Brown discussed the luncheon and why it’s so vital for adults to support their work Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.
“This year is going to be similar to last year,” Ford said of the highly anticipated opening to the Community Luncheon. “It’s going to be me and the other Youth Organizers doing verbal arts as well as dancing and coordinating it, and songs that basically portray the ideas and the themes that we value at Teen Empowerment, like change being with us and everybody supporting us, the teens. Just so our community could be a better place.”
The theme for this year’s Community Luncheon is “Change Starts with YOUth” – the emphasis on the “YOU” in youth. “We really want to have a call to arms to adults in our community to invest in young people – their power, their potential, further amplifying their voice, and giving them a platform to really share their views on how they can change the health of this community,” Brown said. “When you invest in young people, you definitely invest in you and that’s the thing we really need to really transform our community to a place that is equitable for all.”
Outside of the luncheon, Ford and her fellow Youth Organizers are busy. “Through Teen Empowerment every month we host an event which could be a kickback, which is basically a party, open mic nights or brunches,” she said. “This is always a free event for teens to come to, feel safe. There’s an open safe spot for you to talk, eat, and just chill and be yourself. And stuff that we do is, we do verbal arts, like rap, spoken word, poetry – just so that the teens know like we’re on the same page, we’re in this together, and we’re going to continue to do what we have to do to make our community a better place.”
Ford believes her peers are hearing the message. “Any time after event or before event, like when I’m at school doing outreach, people ask me – when is the next event? It’s a nice feeling to know that my teens and peers are excited to come to a positive event, an event that’s talking about doing better in school and sex education.”
Brown is among those who believe giving voice to our youth creates the opportunity for positive change. “I think the thing we forget about is that we were all young once, and how it felt to be voiceless. It felt like you didn’t have any power and you couldn’t change the environment and the situation around you – so really, tapping into the leadership skills that young people already possess, tapping into their social capital so they can organize their friends and bring those young people into the fold to really join this movement behind changing the Code of Conduct at the RCSD and having dialogues with police officers at the RPD, finding any way to put young peoples’ voice at the forefront, put them at the table where decisions are being made about their lives and their future to really let their voice be heard because we really need them to join us in this fight to transform and really make Rochester the place we all need it to be.”
For tickets to this year’s Teen Empowerment Community Luncheon, visit TeenEmpowerment.org – and scroll to “News and Events.”