On April 15, 2023, a city-wide event occurred where young people from Philadelphia were able to voice their opinions on different subject areas regarding life in Philadelphia. The topics discussed during the event included public education, public safety, affordable housing, mental health support, and many more. As a youth facilitator of the Public Education discussion, I was able to connect with a variety of different young people, specifically students, on their issues and experiences.
When facilitating the public meeting education discussion, there were many students voicing their issues with the way they felt at their schools. Many students did not like how they were not able to connect with their teachers and staff and that they were feeling a sense of hostility when they were at school. One of the students in the group talked about how the teachers disrespected them and how they wanted that to change.
In order to make change to this, students can hold events within their schools where they can better connect with other people in their schools. They can also bring issues with staff to the school district.
As the discussion continued, the youth started to voice their opinions on safety within their schools. Many students do not feel like school is a safe environment for them. They also wanted to have a connection with their security officers and wanted to be able to interact with them.
Pennsylvania State Representative, Amen Brown, who also ran for mayor in the recent election asked a question to the group: “Do you want the security officers to be armed or not?” With that many of the students said that they wanted security officers that are armed at their schools. There are many reasons why students would want this, but it is mostly because of the lack of protection. These days in order to fight back with a gun, another gun needs to be involved.
In order to bring change, it starts politically. In order to cater to the youth, the youth need to be a part of the changes in Philadelphia, which means youth in politics. In a mini-documentary by WHYY, Jeron Williams II, who also facilitated a public education group explained that , “[they] would want students in City Hall…we’re doing things for the future of Philadelphia and the future of Philadelphia are young people.”
Many students have issues with the public education system of Philadelphia, but do not have a lot of opportunities to help solve them. Having students involved in City Hall will allow them to make change. One of the students in my group, Miguel Perez, gave the suggestion that students from schools all over Philadelphia should be able to have a chance to represent their schools and talk to the School District of Philadelphia in a town hall-style format.