Middle and high school students from Mustang and Yukon came together Thursday morning for the annual Youth Speak Out.
Students from MPS and YPS held a forum at the Yukon Fine Arts Center in front of school and public officials to address concerns school-aged children are facing. Topics of conversation included racial equality, mental health, bullying and suicide. Each of the 17 students addressed the officials in front of a podium, speech in hand.
Yukon student Jordan Abraham told a fictional story about a boy and his best friend. The boys spent time with one another on the playground and in the neighborhood. One day, the boys’ friend doesn’t come out to play and it lingers for days.
Once the boy musters the courage to knock on the door of his house, he’s greeted by the mother who informs the child that his friend committed suicide.
“That really is a depiction of how fast that stuff happens,” Abraham said. “Sometimes you never even know, and people get swept under the rug.”
Abraham is involved in several organizations within Yukon High School, including student council, national honor society, Yu-Can Coalition, and she’s head of the random Acts of Kindness Week.
She said she doesn’t have any personal history with mental health issues but says it’s important for people like her to be aware of the signs in others.
“I think the passion came when I realized how much our society really doesn’t do and there’s a lot of conversations that can be had that don’t happen.”
After the speeches, the floor was open for questions and comments about the topics. Many in the audience posed questions of what officials could do to improve the conditions. Others suggested the students look into themselves to help their peers.
School officials from Mustang and Yukon were in attendance. MHS principal Teresa Wilkerson wasn’t surprised by anything the students were saying, thanks to communication programs.
“I already knew because we have an open-door policy. We have several student leadership groups. I have a senior leadership group that has a representative from every organization in our school, whether it’s athletics or art or robotics. Any club sends their senior leaders. I’ve heard the messages before, and we are working on the things we can work on to help them,” Wilkerson said.
Yukon High School principal Melissa Barlow listened intently, jotting down notes. Her next step is to ensure the students’ call to action doesn’t stop at the forum.
“I’ve got a whole notebook of takeaways. Writing down each of their concerns. I’ll be calling each of them in and visiting with them to just learn more. they only got to speak for a snippet. In my notes I wrote down some ‘aha’s’ and takeaways of things that I want to inquire more about their ideas.”
YHS has taken many ideas over the years from the Youth Speak Out and have implemented them into their school.
“This has been going on for a long time and many of the things we do at Yukon high school are a result from the youth speak out. We do a program called rethink every Wednesday for 40 minutes where we do open and closed sessions, enrichment, and intervention sessions. That idea actually came from a student at Youth speak out. Many of the things that we do come from here.”
For as many years as they’ve hosted Youth Speak Out, it has never been a panel comprising only of females as it was Thursday. Barlow found that it’s a sign of the times for women.
“It’s interesting today just to see that group of young ladies feel empowered to get up and speak. All of them belong to different clubs and organizations at Yukon high school so they’re not from one particular pipeline. What I think it is, it’s a good representation of the student body at Yukon high school and knowing they feel empowered to speak.”
Abraham was inspired by her female colleagues.
“I saw that the future is female. All these women are so powerful and just seeing that there are so many people that are willing to combat issues was really cool.”