By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photo Courtesy of Ari Pak
Last night, MD AALEADers participated in a discussion on youth issues at the 8th Annual Youth Having a Voice Roundtable. Four AALEADers from Blair High School participated in a discussion hosted by the youth members of the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth. The Roundtable was created to bring awareness of youth’s issues to County leaders, which therefore creates a foundation for educating the larger community about issues faced by our youth. AALEADers engaged critically with twelve other Montgomery County youth, discussing the most critical issues affecting them, including cultural competence in schools and their desired life skills.
AALEAD youth reflected on their appreciation for the opportunity to learn from their peers and to make cross-cultural connections between their experiences. During the discussion, one AALEAD youth spoke to the power of creating common ground between people of different cultures. This example of practicing acceptance of cultural difference was modeled at the Roundtable discussion itself. Youth of different backgrounds shared openly about the issues most relevant to their lives and were received with warmness, understanding, and respect. Some youth shared about experiences relating to their racial, ethnic, or religious identities. While not all youth present shared these identities, all gained a better understanding the varied experiences of their peers.
Through the Roundtable discussion, AALEAD youth grew as community leaders in multiple ways. They learned about the different cultural issues affecting their peers and how to better support each other moving forward. In addition to generating cross-cultural understanding, they also directly impacted the agenda of the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth through the issues that they raised. AALEADers stepped into the opportunity provided by the Youth Having a Voice Roundtable and used their voice to shape the cultural landscape of Montgomery County.