Every year the KIDS Network – a Santa Barbara countywide umbrella organization including members from public agencies, the courts, law enforcement, education, community-based organizations, school-linked programs and parent groups – honors young people for their contributions to the community. The annual Youth Impact Awards celebrate youth who have made a significant positive impact on their communities in Santa Barbara County. Nominations are received from members of the community, and all young people ages ten through eighteen living or attending school in Santa Barbara County qualify.
Youth participating in the Santa Maria Teens Speak Out Youth Forum received the prestigious Youth Impact Award on Wednesday May 13, 2015. In addition, the youth received Congressional recognition for their hard work for this Teen in Action project under the leadership of Camp Fire’s Youth Development Specialist, Jazmin Garcia.
The Santa Maria Teen Speak Out Youth Forum event took place April 8, 2015. The Youth Forum was envisioned by the Community Action Commission’s (CAC) Tracy Langwood, Joyce Ruiz and Elisa Prado. The Youth Forum was a chance for youth to share their views with community youth leaders, school officials and city representatives on various topics including safety, teen youth programming, life as a youth, and how they feel about living in the City of Santa Maria. The Forum was an accumulation of 8 weeks of study and research organized by youth alongside adult leaders to make for a very successful event. The youth advisory group also went to a city council meeting and personally invited the entire city council as well as the mayor herself.
The half day forum included an amazing introduction with a percussion drumbeat with youth expressing themselves through their photography, photo voice and art. 150 youth were surveyed on “what they thought of Santa Maria, what can be improved, and additional needs youth desired.” The photos included images of graffiti, back alleys, homes, trashed fields, schools, sports, etc. The photo voice project gave them an opportunity to express what affected them in positive or negative ways.
A Teen Panel was the focal point of the forum. The Panel gave an opportunity for four youth from diverse backgrounds, cultures, schools, and ages to express themselves in personal ways and to answer audience questions. The Forum provided the youth advisory board an opportunity to share their voice, develop many organizational skills, and to work collaborative with their peers and community leaders.