Running our own Youth Forum

We were involved in the 2020 NSW Rural Youth Ambassador Forum program. This was a great experience which opened our eyes to the impact that our voice can have.

We were inspired by our experience of the RYA program and wanted to share what we learnt at a local level. So we ran a mini youth forum in our school. Advisors collectively nominated forty-one students from years 7-10 to be involved. Our teachers selected a great mix of students, with a range of personalities, opinions and goals. This was helpful in group work as it gave all students, whether shy or outgoing, an opportunity to express themselves and have their voices heard.

Phil (who facilitates the RYA program in NSW, SA and VIC) travelled up to our school for the forum and we’d like to extend a big thank you to him for his help. Whilst he let us run the day, it was extremely helpful having him for guidance and being able to share his expertise. Phil helped enable the students to understand the impact and change that they are able to make.

Darcy and Claire, NSW Rural Youth Ambassaords in 2020

Throughout the day, we ran a series of activities and presented impactful videos. The students worked in groups to discuss the great aspects of their school, as well as the parts they would like to help improve. We workshopped the areas of improvement and laid out some ways we can do this. This led to many open discussions with the students about the most effective ways they believe they can create positive change and allowed them to voice their views.

We encouraged the students to think about how big of an impact they could have on both their lives, and the lives of students who are yet to come through the school. We understand the changes we’d like to see aren’t going to take place immediately, but we will be running another forum this year (2021) to make a detailed action plan about how we can implement our ideas. Our school social worker and year 12 advisor have come on board with our ideas and are going to help us to implement them.

Throughout the day we encouraged students to learn to have more confidence in themselves and use their voice. This was important to share this with the students as it’s one of the biggest things we learnt during our RYA program. Self confidence and finding your voice is tricky, but slowly introducing it will hopefully encourage many students to do so.

We found many students are hesitant to express their opinions at school because they feel like it’s not their place. However we would like to create a more open and expressive environment in our school and improve student agency and student voice. We are aiming to do this by a youth to youth approach as this is one of the most effective ways we are able to gain students’ views on current issues.

The forum was a great success and it was surprising but validating to see how open many of the students were. Establishing ground rules about the privacy and confidentiality of these conversations helped this. It was an extremely valuable day and we look forward to creating a positive change within the school. We are hopeful that this program will be carried on by the current year 11’s in 2022.

Claire & Darcy

Darcy, Claire and other students from Canowindra High School

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