Youth telling stories through social media

Kindra Montgomery

On Saturday, May 22, more than 100 youth and adults attended the Youth Media Forum for Social Change at the KCRA Channel 3 Studios in Sacramento. Eleven social media projects and their youth producers were featured in a two-hour live online show that featured and honored their work. This is the story behind the forum.

The Youth Media Forum for Social Change was rooted in the beliefs of the community partners, all of whom believe as guest speaker Tuere Anderson from Youth Radio gracefully articulated: youth share and tell their stories through the use of social media because the communities in which they live impact their lives, politically, socially, educationally, emotionally, and physically, yet inspire and motivate them in a real way.

Young people are using social media to define their own power and community connectedness, measured through their own native digital influence that naturally connects them with peers and adult allies, allowing them to instantly support their voice.

In fact, if you think about the personal revolution that can occur through the number of “friends” you have on a Facebook page and translate that to the number of Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, or Texting friends of a couple of youth empowered to change a single community issue, the potential of creating action has limitless cyber-infused possibilities.

“I blog because there is no right or wrong,” said Stephanie Tran, 16, from Mira Loma High School. “It is just the way I feel.”

This poignant quote sums up what we believe is the 21st Century connection to Civil Rights and the First Amendment of Free Speech.

The youth social media projects that were featured at the forum showcased youth voice and citizenry in not only a diverse way, but in a true democratic format, allowing youth to speak freely about what they know best – issues and challenges they face in their communities daily.

Youth members of the Woodland Coalition for Youth & KOLORS, for example, produced one of the documentaries featured at the forum – “ Open Your Eyes Teen Pregnancy.”

The documentary focuses on teen pregnancy in the Latino community and has been used as an advocacy tool by the youth to bring awareness to the issue and to encourage community dialogue about the pervasive issues of teen pregnancy in Yolo County to the large Latino population. You can find it here.

To date the youth have had great success using the video as a way to increase awareness about teen pregnancy prevention in Woodland, CA. It has been screened at community events, in the schools, and has been included as part of the curriculum in a high school health class.

In addition, the documentary is also is currently being used by the National Coalition for Latino Pregnancy as part of the national efforts to prevent teen pregnancy. Another youth group called SacTown Heroes from West Sacramento Resources for Youth Coalition, spoke about there Youth Voices For Change google maps that featured an online map of pictures and videos that represented community places at which they felt safe and unsafe.

Youth have many assets, and it is our belief that above all, they have an advanced native connection to social digital culture that rivals many adults. Youth are connected to building community that goes far beyond city, county, and state lines. The impact of their voice is not just measured in the distance it can be heard but through the power of global broadband “hits”.

For two hours on May 22, the Youth Media Forum for Social Change bridged the gap between mainstream media and youth social media. The forum set the bar high for how the Sacramento Region mainstream media outlets will support authentic youth voices through social media in efforts to create community change that will embrace the diversity of youth culture and recognize that youth have something to say about the world in which they live.

It is time that as adults, we begin to listen to our youth. Like their ancestors did with the Chicano Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Ethnic Studies Movement, youth have created a movement meaningful to them– a social media movement.

All of the Social Media Projects for Social Change can be viewed on the multimedia site here.

Kindra F. Montgomery-Block and bel Reyes are with the UC Davis School of Education – Center For Community School Partnerships.

This interactive map was produced by West Sacramento youth and includes photos, video and commentary about the safe and unsafe places they see in their neighborhood.

View Youth Voices for Change in a larger map
The UC Davis Center for Community School Partnerships has led this Youth Media Forum effort. Our regional community partners in this forum include Access Sacramento (Cable TV), Sacramento City Unified School District, KCRA Channel 3 and a host of other community organizations. Collectively, this partnership aims to recognize, amplify, and support social media projects that have been created and produced by youth for social change.

The Youth Media Forum is a component of the Healthy Youth/Healthy Regions initiative. HYHR is a collaborative partnership between the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, Sierra Health Foundation and The California Endowment that documents the connections of improvements in youth well being with regional prosperity and equity in the nine county Sacramento region.

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