About thirty people gathered at the Columbia Public Library on Wednesday evening to give teens a chance to speak and adults a chance to listen.
The Columbia Human Rights Commission issued an open invitation to “Teen Speak,” an event billed as encouraging discussion and promoting understanding about diversity and racial issues.
The discussion focused on “A Place at the Table,” a movie narrated by teenagers about their families’ searches to find equality and justice in American society.
In between sections of the movie, the attendees broke off into groups to discuss the issues it raised, ranging from the challenges of immigration and perceptions of America to the everyday difficulties faced by students, such as dealing with teachers.
“My only real expectation is that the teachers be fair,” said Caroline Pitchford, 14, adding that teachers tend to ignore what students have to say.
Allison Minor is concerned not only about difficulties faced by teens, but also with the perception of teens in general. She came to the meeting to show that teens care and are informed about issues. Minor, who will be a senior this fall, is involved in the Global Issues Club at Hickman High School, where teens can discuss current problems facing the world.
Teens who attended are concerned with having a public voice, but they also want to be listened to at home.
Adults who attended encouraged the discussion. They asked teens to elaborate on the points they raised and expressed an interest in what young people are thinking.
“I want to be involved with what my son is doing, and I just wanted to learn and be in touch with what is going on with him,” Michelle Rodriguez said. She was there with her son and daughter.
The discussion was the second “Teen Speak” event. It is part of the Community Study Circles Program, a discussion group that meets monthly in the Friends’ Room of the Columbia Public Library.