An opportunity to be heard and free pizza weren’t enough to draw more than a small number of county citizens to the 16th Annual Community Youth Forum at the Chesterfield Technical Center on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Assembled to directly inform the Board of Supervisors of youth-related issues, the Why? We Hear You Community Youth Forum welcomed citizens, both youth and adult, to discuss their opinions and experiences on the subject. Two discussion sessions were conducted: Dodge the Pressure, a look at the pressures teens face today and how they can avoid being stressed, and Dare 2B U, a discussion about stereotypes and what influences them. Content from each discussion was recorded and will be sent to the Board of Supervisors. The forum ended with special guest Dr. Linda Hancock, director for the Office of Health Promotions at VCU, demonstrating the difference between perception and reality to help youths make healthier choices.
“We were expecting a few more people,” Barbara Mait, chairwoman and adult representative of the county’s Youth Services Citizens Board (YSCB), said during her introductory speech.
The YSCB, whose purpose is advising the Board of Supervisors on issues faced by youth and providing opportunities for community input on the matter, appeared to make up a majority of the youth attending the forum. After its members and representatives, a group consisting of 15 young people, were asked to form a line on stage, only a few young people remained in their seats.
According to T.C. Robinson, one of the youth board representatives attending the event, only 20 of the 67 people registered to attend the event came. He said “perhaps weather had a lot to do with it,” as it rained most of the day. This number was down from last year’s total of 80 forum attendees.
Robinson said youth in Chesterfield need to be acknowledged and the lack of widespread input doesn’t help the cause.
“A lot of youth in our community feel unheard,” he added. “Usually, certain people are listened to; in reality, they all need to be heard.”
Attending the event was Chesterfield County School Board Chairman David Wyman. He felt the topics being discussed at the forum were of crucial importance, saying that “our parents need to hear this message.” However, many county citizens of all ages did not hear it, and insights were not shared by those needing to voice their opinions the most.
In response to the unanticipated low turnout, Wyman said: “Usually more people are involved. … We see it as an opportunity for us to do this at an individual school.”