Guest post by Ta’mya Davis, communications chair for the Teen Advisory Committee at Step Forward.
My name is Ta’Mya Davis and I am a junior at Benton High School in Benton, La. I serve as the communications chair for the Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) at Step Forward, a member of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network. The committee launched this past January with teens representing the diverse population of six parishes in the community.
I was first introduced to the Teen Advisory Committee through my school counselor who thought it would be a perfect match for me — boy, was he right! I became involved with the group because I recognized it as an extremely beneficial opportunity. It provided a chance for me to improve myself so I can become a more effective leader, give back to the community and work with diverse groups of people.
The Teen Advisory Committee is something that my community has needed for a long time. As of right now, Louisiana has one of the lowest graduation rates and teens experience high levels of anxiety and stress. I, personally, would like to see more teens get involved in their community to talk about these issues.
We, as a group, are currently working toward fixing and improving these problems. The Teen Advisory Committee has been an eye opener that helps adults realize the daily struggles and challenges that teens face in our community. This unique and amazing group allows us, the teens, to be the experts. Because we actually deal with these problems and experiences head-on, we can offer unique firsthand thoughts and opinions that adults don’t have. We have had many opportunities to present our platform and discuss our ideas with large groups of adults such as Step Forward’s Leadership Council and its Workforce Development and Middle-Grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) network team.
We usually present top-level findings at Step Forward’s meetings. For each challenge cited, we propose solutions. As an example, to enhance career readiness, we said hire more guidance counselors and expose students to “real-life” employment pathways. For the most part, the adults have been very open to hear what we have to say. Some adults were even shocked to hear some of the problems that we mentioned.
In a short amount of time, I have worked with other members of the group to establish bylaws and lay the foundation for present and future members. We are currently going through training and working on choosing a community service project that will be based on what we feel are the biggest problems teens in our community face today. The areas that we think need the most improvement are education, health, especially mental health, and civic engagement.
This decision was made by the 30 teens within the Teen Advisory Committee, including an executive committee of officers and committee chairs. The executive committee is the leadership of the group, which governs the organizational structure, membership, group activities and professional conduct. At a typical meeting, the president, Bhavani Tivakaran, calls the meeting to order. She and the vice president, Robert Lawrence, co-facilitate to make sure the meeting is running smoothly. The secretary, Annika Robinson, takes notes and reads the minutes from the previous meeting.
Before we close out our meetings, we usually discuss the time, date and location for the next meeting. As the communications chair, I keep the group updated on meeting dates/times by sending a “remind” message to the entire group. Our meetings are held once a month at a central location and last anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours. We accomplish a lot in the two hours that we meet.
Outside of my involvement with the Teen Advisory Committee, I am a member of several organizations: the Student Council, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Young Women Choosing Action (YWCA), band, interact club, literary rally and Junior Optimist International. Being in the Teen Advisory Committee has allowed me to improve and hone some of my leadership skills. Since becoming a member, I have improved my time management, communication and effective listening skills. Because I am involved in many other groups, I have to properly manage my time. When I am doing my job as the communications chair, such as sending out reminders, I must make sure that there is no miscommunication and that everyone understands the upcoming events. When we brainstorm ideas for our community service project, I am learning how to listen to everyone’s different views.
My participation in the Teen Advisory Committee has allowed me not only to become a better version of myself, but to help my peers do the same. Honestly, I have never been more excited to be a part of a group! The other members allow me to be optimistic about the future. They are ready to work, take action and improve the overall well-being of teens. I believe, without a doubt, that the Teen Advisory Committee will achieve great things and I am ecstatic to see what all we do. It is an honor to work alongside peers who have the same goal as me: to change the future for the better.
The Teen Advisory Committee was established by Step Forward, a member of the Cradle to Career Network. Training and funding for the committee were provided by International Youth Foundation’s LEAPS initiative as part of efforts to engage young people and communities in addressing youth challenges in rural Texas and northern Louisiana.