Youths talk education, jobs at Walsh forum

January 17, 2014
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Better educational opportunities, jobs and curbing violence were the prominent themes discussed during a public forum on youth issues held by Mayor Martin Walsh’s transition team at Jamaica Plain’s English High School on Jan. 9.

Transition team member Charlotte Golar Richie, a former mayoral candidate who later endorsed Walsh, said at the beginning that the forum was an opportunity for youths to share their “views and dreams about the city.” For the most part, the transition team stayed silent and allowed the attendees to speak.

Darrell Williams, a 17-year-old who is part of the nonprofit Teen Empowerment, talked about educational opportunities. He said that the statewide dropout rate for whites is 1.5 percent, but for blacks and Hispanics in urban areas, it is 15 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

He said suburban school districts have more activities, such as theater, arts and sports. Williams also said that students in the suburbs are able to take their books home, while in the inner city, they have to drop them off at the end of class. He said he hopes the mayor provides better educational resources for the school district.

“There are longer lines for kids getting new sneakers than students getting diplomas,” Williams said about the city.

Many of the attendees spoke about the need for more youth jobs, saying it gives them opportunities and steers them clear of trouble.

Keturah Brewster of the Youth Jobs Coalition pulled a Gazette reporter aside to say she came to the forum to make sure Walsh keeps the commitment he made during the campaign about providing more youth jobs. She said it is “very important” that young people have jobs because that is where they gain experience and learn to dress appropriately.

Kenny Jean, an 18-year-old who is part of the JP-based Beantown Society and Youth, Justice & Power Union, talked about how he used to get in trouble, but then through youth programs, had an opportunity to change and become a leader in his community.

Other attendees discussed the violence they have seen and the need to foster a better relationship between the police and youths.

Walsh was not present at the forum. The “transition team” is forming his new administration and helping to set its policies.

Several transition meetings have been held. Another meeting is scheduled to take place on arts and culture on Jan. 25. For more information, see boston14.org.