As a region, we find ourselves yet again in despair, disarray and exasperation following more events that illuminate the well-documented inequities that exist here.
Action toward solutions has never been more critical. Now is the time for galvanizing and catalyzing the positive, viable, research-based solutions that have already been provided by experts, youth and citizens of this community.
Although the 2015 Ferguson Commission Report identified Youth at the Center as one of four signature priorities, the recent community conversations have remained largely silent on the importance of youth at the center of the set of solutions we must adopt.
Putting youth at the center of the discussion is the most important action we can take.
In the critical time of the adolescent and early adult years, youth are making decisions that impact their futures, and ours. Yet as For the Sake of All starkly points out, our region’s youth are struggling to secure the support they need and deserve.
Youth need equitable opportunities to jobs; access to health care; high quality, supportive education; and high quality and supportive youth development. They are struggling because those opportunities are insufficient and often inaccessible. Those with the least access to opportunities are poorer and predominately youth of color.
A vibrant society is only as strong as its young people, and the time is NOW to empower youth to thrive, and help them use their voices and imaginations to create the change our region so desperately deserves.
Morally, how can we in good conscience leave half of our potential future leaders behind? Economically, as the region continues to look toward further economic development, attraction of major companies and growing as a technology hub, how can we ignore the potential for a vibrant, diverse and talented workforce living right here, right now?
To both of these imperatives there are answers – answers informed by youth, for youth, and validated by best practices throughout the country. St. Louis can forge a different future with our young people. We can build a future and a community worthy of all of our children and youth.
When we invest in them by enacting the solutions so clearly laid out in reports like For the Sake of All and The Ferguson Commission Report, we can forge a powerful destiny for St. Louis: a place where the economy hums, young people thrive, and all people benefit from sharing their skills, talents, and passions.
Make no mistake, these inequities, inefficiencies and gaps did not appear overnight and they will not be fixed in a day. Yet, we know what to do. There are pockets of success everywhere. Success results from everyone standing shoulder-to-shoulder and looking in the same direction toward one common goal.
We urge our region’s citizens and leaders to concertedly enact the recommendations for youth laid out in both of those reports. By placing youth at the center of our region’s focus in all that we do, St. Louis will bridge the gaps from its past and build its foundation for tomorrow. In these divisive times, if we cannot come together for youth, then what can we come together for?
Join us and our partners in standing with our region’s youth. When they all thrive – so will St. Louis.