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 YOUTH ENGAGEMENT:  Your Voice Heard

No matter where you live in Canada, as teens you continually search for avenues to express your views on issues facing you - in your life, your school, your community. Do you have something to say.... OF COURSE YOU DO.

Youth Engagement, Involvement or Activism is basically getting your views out about whatever you can, whenever you can. It encourages you to speak up and pursue lasting solutions to problems you care deeply about. It could be joining a youth group, pursuing a talent you have, volunteering, or expressing your views through writing, multimedia, public speaking.

Student Expression
As a student journalism program, part of SNNís mission is to provide youth with a voice that is mostly not available to you in other media forms. Former student reporter, Ashleigh Viverios of Winkler, Manitoba says it best:

ďSNN is an outlet for teenís ideas, a place where you can vent, where you can write things that anger you, or that you feel need recognition. Itís an organization that gives the teenagers of Canada a voice in a society that sometimes forgets weíre here. SNN gives teens an opportunity to let their opinions be heard on a national scale. Itís a place where you can be secure in the knowledge that somewhere out there are students who will read your article, and nod their heads in agreement.

SNN is for the shy kid that sits at the back of the class, praying that the teacher wonít call on her. Itís for the popular kid who doesnít know how to make his opinions known. Itís for the dreamer, who writes articles about the amazing future we have in front of us. Itís for all the kids who have a passion, whether it be writing, sports, or movies...whatever it is. SNN gives them a chance to let their opinions be heard by thousands....Nothing can compare to that.Ē

Student Involvement
Being involved in your school, your community brings a new sense of confidence, self-gratification and a good way to interact in the "grown-up world". It also enables you to develop new communication, career building and social skills that will be useful in other facets of your life. Community organizations actively look to recruit young people because they bring boundless energy, fresh perspective and vitality to an organization.

Here are some ideas/suggestions you might use to help you develop an article.

1. In the adult world teenagers are generally viewed as self-absorbed, phone-crazed, promiscuous, TV addicted, alcohol craving, deviants. Stereotyping, definitely. Nobody likes being labeled - especially teenagers. Over the span of two-three weeks, watch news shows, read newspapers. What articles/stories do you see involving young people? Are they good news stories about a student/s doing something positive OR are they about teens involved in disruptive behaviour? How many good news stories versus bad news? Why is that? Do you think it is the norm in media portrayal of teenagers? Invite someone from your local media to your school/class to discuss this issue.

2. Gather a group of friends/classmates together to discuss the issue raised in #1. What is their view on how youth are portrayed in the media? Does media use stereotypes to define your generation? Why is that? Investigate media education websites to understand how media works on this issue. What can you do to change how youth are portrayed in the media? If you have a video camera, tape your discussion. We may put it in our Monthly newscast.

3. Do you feel that if millions of teens weren't out there getting pregnant, glued to the TV, and driving drunk then adults wouldn't look down on you? Do you believe that teenagers everywhere pay the price for their peers and put up with these kind of negative stereotypes?

4. How can you get your views across to the adults in your life, society in general. Obviously most media outlets do not provide youth forums where young people can voice their views, their opinions, their stories. Organizations such as SNN, the Students Commission, YPP, and television programs such as StreetCents and others provide young people with a place to express themselves in a journalism/multimedia format. Some newspapers occasionally publish articles by students. Why is it important to have a place to share your stories, your views? Does what student Ashleigh Viverios (above) ring true for you? Should there be more opportunities for young people to express themselves in mainstream media organizations?

5. As mentioned earlier, most adults tend to only see the bad things youth do and are somewhat oblivious of the positive contributions teens make to their communities. Some of the world's greatest accomplishments, as a matter of fact, came from teens.

- Profile a teen or teens doing something very unique in your community, nationally or globally
- If you are involved in a school group, youth or volunteer organization, tell us about it.
- Discuss something that is of importance to you: music, the environment, global issues.
- In Ontario student involvement is now part of the senior high curriculum. What does this mean to you and how do you feel about it.

LINKS: (Also check out stories in this month's edition related to this topic)

Youth Volunteering http://www.pitchin.org/intro.htm
Taking it Global http://www.takingitglobal.org"
Youth Action Network http://www.youthactionnetwork.org
Media Awareness Network http://www.media-awareness.ca
YouthFluence.com http://www.youthfluence.com
Center for Media Education http://www.cme.org
International Youth Week http://www.youthweek.org
Media Literacy Clearinghouse http://www.med.sc.edu:1081
Children Now http://www.childrennow.org/media/index.html
Media Literacy Links http://interact.uoregon.edu/MediaLit/mlr/resources/resources.html



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