Students Paving the Way for Change

Maddie Walker, Reporter

Friday, February 26th, select Roosevelt Students attended the 4th North East Ohio Conflict Resolution Youth Symposium. In short, it was an online conference that discussed change, adversity, self-care, leadership, and so many other things.

Tons of Cleveland Organizations helped make this conference happen virtually. The first event started off with EYEJ which stands for “Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice.”┬áThis is a youth led organization who creates a family environment and gives students who feel alone a place to go. Their goal is to have “human to human connections.” They go around to different schools to speak and inform Cleveland Schools about their program.

Jothsna Sabbasani is one of the main youth leaders and discussed self love and how it relates to growth. This is important to the EYEJ group because they can not make things happen if a person is refusing to grow!

The Youth Council at EYEJ specifically fights systematic injustices.

Next was the first round of break out rooms. The topics were “Lessons for My S.E.L.F.”, “Rhyme and Resistance”, and a “Holocaust Survivor Talk.”

“Lessons for My S.E.L.F” was all about caring for yourself first and how to make responsible decisions, that do not only benefit you, but also the other person involved. The adult leaders explained how conflict is inevitable and that you have to use your “Conflict Toolbox” to make a proper decision on how to go about a conflict. For example saying you are sorry, talk it out, or just walk away are some tools you can get from your toolbox. This event was sponsored by W.A.V.E.

“Rhyme and Resistance” was about using your words to express how you feel and also standing up for causes you believe in. This event was run by Calil Cage from the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio.

“Holocaust Survivor Talk” was a holocaust survivor, Helen Marks, who shared her story, talked about her own resilience, and had a Q&A at the end of the talk. This event was sponsored by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

To create a calm mind for the students, as an in between break the committee decided to have fifteen minute mindfulness workshops. There was one session offered to the students, “Finding Your Center: Mindfulness Practice.”

“Finding Your Center” was led by Jessica McLaughlin. She discussed different ways to practice mindfulness, like conscious breathing, observing sensation, and a body scan and muscle relaxer. Miss McLaughlin reminded the students that you should go into mindfulness without judgement and to use the ? SOLAR. Which stands for Stop, Observe, Let it go, And, Return.

Jessica McLaughlin ended her session with this quote, “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”

There was a short five minute break following these mindfulness workshops.

On the schedule there were two more things to go: one more breakout session and the closing keynote speaker.

Breakout Rooms part two once again had three workshops, “What Does it Mean to Share Power?”, “Value You,” and a “Poetry Writing Workshop.”

“What Does it Mean to Share Power” was run by strong independent women from multiple organizations. Bri Oldham who was with the Cleveland Foundation, Keisha Gonzalas who was with Common Ground, and Erika Brown who was with Neighborhood Connections. These ladies discussed what it meant to share power on an individual level and on an institutional level.

This break out room encouraged the youth to “Be Loud! Break myths! Start the Youth Revolution!” Organizations like the ones the leaders were from supported community and deterred from the “savior complex.” There was also racism, sexism, homophobia, and more discussed. When a student named Chris asked, “As a white man, how can I support and uplift black voices?” he was answered with the lesson of asking people “How can I support you” instead of taking charge and fixing the problem by yourself.

“Value You” was about sex trafficking. It discussed the importance of spreading awareness of this as well as warning signs to the threat of being trafficked. Karen McHenry from Bellefaire JCB also gave students the tools to protect themselves, their family, and their friends.

The third session was a “Poetry Workshop.” This workshop let students write poetry and informed those who attended of a competition to win money with their writing at an event called, “Maltz Museum Stop the Hate Essay Contest.”

Finally to wrap up the conference, local Archie Green, who is also a rapper and an advocate for mental health spoke about his struggle with life and mental illness. He pushed on resiliency and talked about how writing helped him release internal struggle.

Fun fact about Archie Green, he went to school with famous rapper “Kid Cudi.” He also has a nonprofit organization called “Peel Dem Layers Back,” which encourages students to write music or just write about how they feel.

Mr. Green described fear as a liar and he said “They can trap your body, but they can’t trap your mind.”

To wrap up his speech he gave some much needed anxiety related tips.

For example square breathing, meditation, positive affirmations, physical activity, being around friends, and doing what you love.

This convention inspired students to be the change in the world, to start the Youth Revolution.

Alex Green says, “I was really able to relate to one particular speaker, who talked about ‘not feeling black enough’ because of the way he talked and acted and his interests, His presentation taught me that my heritage and the box society put me in are separate, and I don’t have to conform to what others think ‘black’ means.”

Heidi Jurging had participated in the meditation and the poetry workshop. She says, “We were able to realize how alike we are. [During the poetry workshop] Poetry is also a great way to give a voice to one’s resilience.”

Use your voice. Be loud. Don’t back down. Fight systemic injustices. Start the Youth Revolution.