Women's Muse Conference provides platform for youth voices | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Women's Muse Conference provides platform for youth voices

Local teens to lead discussion on issues affecting our kids

click to enlarge Women's Muse Conference provides platform for youth voices
Else Kerkmann
Selections from Teen Muse Project, on display at The Muse Hub on Friday.

Muse Conference, a four day event celebrating women and girls as catalysts for change, is this weekend and in addition the multitude of activities and workshops planned in Bend, a Youth Panel made up of local teens is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Ashlee Davis, a counselor at Pacific Crest Middle School, is an advisor for the Teen Muse Club at Pacific Crest as well as the moderator for Friday’s discussion. Davis has advised the club for the past two years, one of ten other clubs in local schools, and says she has seen it grow from 10 girls to 30-35 girls attending each week.

We sat down with Davis to talk to her about the Muse Club at
Pacific Crest Middle School and what to expect from Friday’s panel.

SW: Each club chooses to focus on a social issue of their choice, correct?

DAVIS: Our girls right now are focusing on a campaign they started called, “Ignite Change | Spark Kindness” their focus is to reduce hate speech and bullying type behaviors that go on at our school.

SW: What does the campaign entail?

DAVIS: They started this a couple of months ago and we
started this conversation behind what fires you up, what do you want to focus
on in terms of conversation. That forged and transformed into the campaign.
They go into classrooms and teach lessons to our younger students about the
power of kindness and what are little acts that we can do to create positive
change in our community. They ran a weeklong kindness station… where each day was something different.

One of the days they videotaped students around the school
responding to the prompt, “What are things that do to show you kindness and how does that make you feel?” Then we turned that into a short film. And another day the prompt was, “Speak up: What are you tired of seeing or hearing at school and how will you be the change?”

(Davis says the girls are currently planning a “self-care day,” with volunteers running stations that promote skills, resources, practices that foster good mental, physical and emotional health.)

SW: What will the panel be formatted?

DAVIS: We have four girls from our club, we have girls from local high schools here, Summit and Bend High, then we have a couple of girls from, I believe one from Culver and one from Madras, who will be participating.

The format is pretty laid back and informal but we will have
a list of questions that I’ve generated just from having conversations with
these girls and it’s about things that they are passionate about that fire them

It’s a format I did it last year and what I walked away from is that adults very rarely just sit and listen to teens and their experiences. What life is like for them, the struggles that they face and the really amazing things that they’re capable of. You know, adults often just like to give ideas and fix problems and give their input. Really, it’s a time for teens to be given a platform to just talk about things that impact them on a daily basis thing that they are passionate about thing that they’d like to see change around.

So I will ask a question if anyone wants to respond great and if anyone wants
to add on and hopefully it’ll have a natural flow to it.

SW: Any specific topics you’ll be covering?

DAVIS: We are talking about things surrounding sexism, equality… I’m guessing some topic around race will come up. One of the questions that the girls really liked was something like, “If you could tell adults one thing about a teenager’s life or what you need from adults, what would it be?”

SW: Following the Parkland school shooting and the multiple threats of gun violence in schools in our area recently, can I assume these recent events will be on the table for discussion?

DAVIS: Yes, that is something that all of the girls said that they want to talk about just from the teen perspective. Not only focusing on what we’re doing wrong but also what can teens do to start to be the change. And one of the things that came up in the group (Thursday) was around what are these small acts that teens and adults have control over that we can start changing. And one of the things that they kept talking about was noticing when kids are not connected at school or withdrawn socially or isolated, what can we do as other humans to connect and support them. Then they talked about mental illness and the need that we have as a community to educate not just adults but more so teens around mental health issues and how can we connect teens to services how can we start educating and supporting teens with their needs. I think that is a topic that will definitely come up.

SW: Have you moderated in past years? How was the turnout and format?

DAVIS: I moderated the one last year as well. We’ll leave probably 10 minutes or so at the end to ask questions and there were a lot of questions (last year).
More so there was a resounding gratitude. I just heard over and over from the adults that it’s so nice to be able to just sit and hear from their perspective. And the one question that came up a lot last year was, “how to we engage our boys in these conversations?” Because we had one male on our panel and the audience was majority female, so that question came up a lot. Our boys
should be involved in this and they should be a part of the conversation and
just hearing from girls as well, like, “wow whenever I say these things to you
this is how it makes you feel.”

SW: Anything else you’d like to add about this year’s panel?

DAVIS: One of the girls today was asking how many people are going to be there and I said hopefully about 50 or so. She said, “Wow, why do
so many people want to come listen to us?”

And I was explaining from the adult’s perspective that it’s a rare opportunity to learn from teens and sit and hear their perspective.

She said, “What can adults possibly learn from teens?” I said that my perspective as a counselor who works with kids, is I learn so much
from you every day in terms of your creative ideas and your passion and the way that you view the world. I don’t know how to word that in a way that would go in a newspaper, but these kids are truly incredible.

They will change the world, and they are changing the world, and we need to listen to them. We need to listen to what they have to say. They have valuable ideas and thoughts and opinions and they care. I always thought it was cheesy whenever I was a kid and adults said “you are the future.” But it’s true. Sitting there and watching them each day—they are incredible.

You can catch the voices panel Friday afternoon at 3:30pm,
just pre-register online at theworldmuse.org.

Youth Voices Panel
3:30-5:00pm. Friday, March 2
Muse Hub
849 NW Wall St.
$10 – Purchase tickets in advance at theworldmuse.org

Teen Muse Project photography exhibit
5:30-7:30pm. Friday, March 2.
Muse Hub
849 NW Wall St.

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