Mount Carmel senior advocates for at-risk youth

jordan_thomas    Total Community Action (TCA) provided an opportunity for me to attend the Children’s Defense Fund Louisiana (CDF) Youth Summit Oct. 18 in Baton Rouge as a youth activist. I was ecstatic about the invitation and the chance to listen to a panel of my peers talk about policies and structures that affect our youth.
    When I arrived,  I was asked to be a panelist. I became overwhelmed with fear over the thought of not being able to answer the questions and of talking in front of my peers, adults and policy makers.
    As the questions starting rolling in about violence, bullying and school, however, I became more relaxed because I realized that these were all topics about which I am familiar. By the end of the event, the other panelists and I reiterated to the audience that violence is a serious topic and, in order to stop it, we all have to take a stand against it.
    We stressed to the audience that bullying is something that should not be taken lightly; being a good student should be a goal of young students every year, not just during the senior year.
    I had first encountered Total Community Action through a summer job program called Job 1. Fifteen  of my peers and I were hired to devise ideas to improve the juvenile justice system. Over the course of that summer, we heard from a variety of speakers, including judges who work for juvenile court, police officers, employees of detention alternative programs and even a man who spent half of his life in Angola prison for a crime he did not commit.
    Together and with the motivation of our supervisors, we came up with ideas for alternatives to people being sent to a detention center, to improve detention centers and to better our community. We made a video that touched on the lack of mental health care facilities in Louisiana and wrote a song that spoke about the violence in our city. I helped make pamphlets that give the basic information about juvenile justice system. TCA allowed our voices, ideas and plans to be heard by workers in the juvenile justice system.
    Similarly, the summit allowed me to be surrounded by community members wanting to help our youth and afforded me the chance to share my opinion.
    Jordan Thomas is a senior at Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans and a Total Community Action (TCA) Youth Leadership participant.