Last week, I had the privilege of joining Students for 60,000 at their Community Forum as part of their West Virginia Exchange Program. The program began this past February, when students from Northport, Huntington and Southampton traveled to Kermit, West Virginia to visit with students and families from the community- which is often cited as ground zero of the opioid epidemic. The connections that took place in February continued when teens from Kermit recently visited Long Island, with a mission to strengthen their bonds and heal through acts of service.
It was inspiring to see young people from different regions connecting on problems impacting their generation and our country. The youth discussed the topics of the opioid epidemic, division, racism, the impacts of social media, and the important role of communication and empathy. Students also sparked a dialogue on how we, as adults, can better engage with youth and leverage their unique and valuable perspectives. Although one might assume there would be conflicting opinions and views between teens from vastly different areas of the country, the students proved that by taking the time to get to know one another, putting preconceived notions aside, and working toward a common goal, we can address these issues more effectively by working together.
While the exchange is over for now, I’m eager to see what the students will do next! A special thanks to all the host families and to advisor Darryl St. George for leading the way on this meaningful program.
~Legislator William Spencer