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With Youth Movement Building, Tukwila Teens Provide Leadership Model

Teens in Tukwila, Wash., are getting a taste of leadership, meeting and speaking with elected officials. (Rachel Samanyi/Flickr)
Teens in Tukwila, Wash., are getting a taste of leadership, meeting and speaking with elected officials. (Rachel Samanyi/Flickr)
April 5, 2018

TUKWILA, Wash – A youth movement has emerged in the discussion about gun control. In Washington state, young people are making their voices heard, too.

One program in particular is serving as a model for ways to get the next generation involved in local decision-making. Teens for Tukwila provides leadership opportunities and a chance for young people to speak with city officials.

Nate Robinson, teen program specialist with the City of Tukwila, developed and coordinates the program and says it's creating a partnership between youths and adults to tackle issues in Tukwila, the most racially and ethnically diverse community in the state.

"When it comes to planning for programs, when it comes to implementing programs, when it comes to everything that has to do with a program, activity, event,” he says, “there is a need for both the youth to bring something that they have to the table and a need for the adult to bring something to the table as well."

Teens for Tukwila meet and discuss a wide range of topics including education, jobs and teen drug use. For the fourth year in a row this May, the teens will meet with Tukwila City Council members. The council recognizes the group as an official voice for young people in the community.

With police shootings facing increased criticism, Teens for Tukwila has met with the local police department to discuss their relationship to the community. Robinson says the group brings authentic voices and young people's experiences to the people in power.

He says it's something that's missing in a lot of places.

"At these decision-making tables, a lot of decisions are being made without the voices or the input or the perspective of a lot of these marginalized groups,” he says. “And I think young people are among those marginalized groups."

In order for young people to become a bigger part of the conversation, Robinson says leaders will have to take intentional actions to include them.

"We are going to have to share power, and I feel like that is the ultimate hurdle. It's a huge hurdle, it's a big hurdle, but I'm about small victories,"he says.

Many members of the program have graduated and are using their skills in college or their careers. The program is an example of an out-of-school strategy being promoted by School's Out Washington and the state's Civics Learning Initiative.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA