Spend a day at the colorful VOX office and you will walk away impressed by the seriousness, imagination, creativity, and audacious energy of the teens in the program. They dream, and they dream big.
VOX Teen Communications is a non-profit youth development organization located in downtown Atlanta, GA, dedicated to “giving us teens the skills and resources to raise our voices about issues that most matter to us.” They publish a teen newspaper and maintain a web site. Some VOX teens are active in the Just Georgia project, an initiative to revise Georgia’s Juvenile Code related to youth living in foster care.
So, what issues did these teens voice when StoryCorps spent a day at VOX? They articulated dreams and hopes for their future, concerns about their peers, and what they think college life will be like. Of course there were pop culture references to music, television, and movies as well. The teens also chose to talk about more serious topics.
For example, Cassandra Maddox (15) and Teyonna Ridgeway (18) discussed body image and its effects on the age at which girls become sexually active. They came to their StoryCorps interview with pages of notes and questions for each other. After discussing how they work to maintain a positive image of themselves in spite of messages they might receive from media, Cassandra noted, “When a guy says you’re sexy, he’s looking at your body. If he tells you you’re pretty, he’s looking at your face. If he tells you you’re beautiful, he’s looking at your inside.”
If it seems teens or millenials are hard on us older folks, they’re equally hard on themselves and their peer groups. For example, Teyonna is concerned that “our generation is selling out…we keep borrowing ideas without expanding them.”
Other VOX teens who shared their hopes, opinions, and dreams with us include Kelcie Willis, Giovan Bazan, Safia Hurst, Chernail Arnold, Veronica Coates, Octavia Fugerson, Tracy Jackson, Stanley Stewar Ot, and Modupe Alabi.
Just knowing the future belongs to teenagers like the ones we met at VOX makes me feel good about them and the future. Keep raising those voices, VOX!