Montgomery County, TN – Earlier this month, Montgomery County Government, Austin Peay State University (APSU), Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) and Spring Forth Counseling Center collaborated to host a virtual forum for a diverse group of middle and high school students.
The purpose of the forum, called Turning the Talk, was to provide an outlet for the students, rather than the adults, to take the lead in a candid conversation about social injustice and how they have seen it affect them and others.
The youth who participated in the web forum were selected by their school principals.
While the idea for the forum came from Montgomery County Diversity and Training Officer Michelle Lowe, it was a team effort and partnership led primarily by Dr. Eva Gibson, an APSU assistant professor of school counseling and clinical coordinator.
“Our youth need and deserve a safe place to have a candid conversation about the social injustice in our society – we owe them that. This was about giving our students the opportunity to speak freely and provide them with the resources to process their feelings,” said Lowe.
Lowe opened the conversation by welcoming the participants and Director of CMCSS Millard House, shared opening remarks. Gibson, along with CMCSS school counselors Yuricka Rice, Tina Duncan, Cavelle Gonga and Yunetta Smith, a therapist with Springforth Counseling, facilitated the session.
The students took the opportunity to articulate and express their feelings and concerns. What stood out most to the organizers was the high level of wisdom, foresight and resilience as well as the amount of pain shared by the students.
Gibson said, “While we hope this session was beneficial for the students that participated, we also hope that the sentiments of these students have an impact on the adults and decision-makers who are able to make changes.”
The organizers and team members from CMCSS administration expressed to the students and each other the overwhelming sense of pride they felt about the maturity of the students. Director House concluded the session with inspiring words of encouragement to the youth.
Lowe stated, “Today the foundation has been laid. Our students have been empowered and are encouraged to continue the conversation in order to start building a better tomorrow. It is our goal to continue hosting more of these forums for additional students in our community. Many of them are hurting and it is our desire to help them heal.”