Teens Speak Up About Dropout Crisis

In partnership with the Nine Network and their national American Graduate initiative Wyman teens participated in a “Teen Town Hall” to discuss the high school drop-out crisis facing the St. Louis community and communities across the country.

Rising 8th, 9th, and 12th graders in Wyman’s Teen Leadership Program (TLP) spent well over an hour discussing what they see happening with high school drop-out in their schools and communities, why teens drop-out, and what can be done to address the situation. Teens discussed the role that all people play in helping curb this crisis – teens themselves, families, teachers, community organizations, and even community members and neighbors. We had many teens who spoke from their personal perspectives – as children of immigrants or other family members who did not finish high school – they see it as their responsibility to change this pattern, and become a role model and example for their siblings and others in their schools.

Teen Town Hall, Wyman Center, Kling Hall

When asked what can be done as a solution, there was such an interesting theme in their responses.  No one said they needed better buildings, better computers, or better books.  Their common response was that the solution was in relationships and support.

Teens need opportunities to be motivated, to see and understand why education is important, and to have adults in their lives who consistently remind them of that and support them in this process. Several teens also discussed the role that Wyman programs play in keeping teens motivated, connected, and successful. Their comments and reflections reinforced the very, very important work that we are doing at Wyman.

It was an honor for me to sit and listen to our young people discuss this topic. There was no complaining, blaming, or finger-pointing, but rather a discussion about what they really see happening, and how they can be part of a solution.

Special kudos to our TLP Director Tim Kjellesvik for brilliantly facilitating the conversation and the whole TLP team for pulling this off. Most importantly, thanks to our teen panelists who shared with honesty and integrity, as well as our audience members who had more to say than we could fit into the time allotted!

This experience was symbolic to me of the work our Wyman team does day in and day out to improve the odds for young people. We must listen to our young people, and engage them as part of the solution. They have much to add, they have important perspectives, and they must be involved in the change process. We have a myriad of ideas and programs and proposals about solutions – but the clear message from our teens is that all of that work floats on a base foundation of having supports and relationships, and people who set standards and expectations that they can achieve. Let’s be sure not to forget that critical, critical foundation.

If you want to learn more about the drop-out crisis, please visit www.americangraduate.org. Wyman is proud to be working with the local initiative to help our community recognize that this is an issue for us all.

Allison Williams, MSW, LCSW
Sr. VP, Wyman Center St. Louis

Get a glimpse of the live discussion by searching #TeenTownHall on Twitter.

See photos from the Teen Town Hall courtesy of Nine Network / Jason Winkeler Photography on our Facebook page.

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