NEW BRITAIN – During a time of uncertainty, New Britain youth is making sure their voices are heard through a youth leadership group formed under the city’s Local Prevention Council.
“I believe a vocal youth voice is a key element into making successful opportunities available for young people,” said Mallory Deprey, director of the city’s Community Services Office. “They know what the trends are and who will show up and for what. Collaboration is a powerful thing, and in my eyes, there is no better collaboration in making decisions for kids then having them share a table with you.”
The Local Prevention Council was formed in 2019 with the intent to prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug use among youth, while promoting wellness to ensure all city youth are prepared to be positive contributing community members. As a result of the council’s initiative, the youth leadership group was created and will meet weekly throughout the summer and beyond. Students were nominated from various community partners and will have input into strategic decisions being made by the council.
Over the summer, city officials have been working with the local youth on a variety of projects, including having youth leaders review data results from a student survey that was distributed to all middle and high school students in February. After the review, they will team up to conduct multiple peer-led focus groups to gather qualitative feedback. This exercise will help to develop the youth leaders’ advocacy skills as they represent their peers’ voices, according to the council. Additionally, they will also educate the adults on ways to develop successful and strategic opportunities that will benefit the adolescents of the city.
Desire Perez, one of the high school seniors involved in the youth leader group, said to be a part of the group is to “Be empowered, be outspoken, be a youth that can show people what you got,” she said.
Fellow high school senior Jonnay Cooper echoed similar sentiments. “I definitely feel empowered and I like being a part of it because I feel like I’m actually making a difference,” Cooper said.
The group is currently comprised of students from HALS Academy, Pulaski Middle School and New Britain High School.
Mayor Erin Stewart said youth voices are always needed at the table, especially when tackling issues that affect then directly.
“Our kids are speaking up,” she said. “Their voices need to be heard and included in the solution. Substance abuse is not an issue we take lightly in New Britain and what our youth have to say about solutions that reduce and prevent it is valued in my office. I commend the youth leadership group on their efforts to tackle this issue head on and use their voices to shed light on its existence in our community. I’m confident that with these young voices at the table we will achieve our goal of helping all youth in New Britain lead a healthy life and be good standing members of our community.”