By Tara Fort
Throughout 2020 as so many in Prescott formed efforts to a better future, some of Prescott’s youth demonstrated their own versions of courage, passion and organized movement. While many adjusted to distance learning and peer isolation, some students also used their time to address topics like inclusion, LGBTQ+, anti-racism and social injustice by forming new student groups to demonstrate their creative and innovative action.
When a collaboration of Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) students established the Youth Action Group (YAG) in early 2020 they approached The Launch Pad Teen Center—a mentoring platform that provides physical and safe spaces for students to share and have open discussion—about finding ways to reach their peers, adult mentors and teachers for conversation about world events through videos, social media, documents and news sources. Courtney Osterfelt, Executive Director says, “The Launch Pad has many teens who attend Prescott High School (PHS) and we have an amazing partnership with PUSD. We collaborate with PHS teachers on programs that teens need around realizing their personal strengths, and well as identifying and addressing important topics.”
Once many of the goals for the YAG were achieved, the group disbanded propelling several teens to join The Launch Pad’s Teen Advisory Council to help carry the work forward. Through their continued energy and mission, the Teen Advisory Council led a community discussion called “Better Together”, a hybrid virtual event that brought hundreds of area youth to the forefront to discuss their chosen topics of diversity, inclusion, and civil discourse. Tessa Martinez, currently a member of the Teen Advisory Council says, “The Better Together event was meant to provide education on inclusivity, and to continue that forward movement through our efforts. I would like to be the first in my family to make a bigger impact.” Adds Osterfelt, “The Teen Advisory Council will continue to offer educational campaigns throughout the school year that build on the work done with Better Together and the Youth Action Group.”
In December 2020, many area high schools participated in a Prescott Commission on Well-Being discussion facilitated by Arizona Town Hall for “Creating Vibrant Communities,” another event well-attended over Zoom, in an effort to create a collective voice to present to state legislatures. Rebecca Horniman, Marketing Director of PUSD says, “The District is very proud, as always, of the work and vision of these groups formed by our students, and we have positives hopes for the future impact they will have on the community.”