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Teens Have a Voice, and We Must Be Heard: My Takeaways From Ilona Dougherty's Lecture

Hello everyone, my name is Naveena, and I am a student at Lester B. Pearson CI. On Monday July 19, 2021, I had the pleasure and opportunity to listen to an extraordinarily successful and astonishing woman named Ilona Dougherty. Ilona has done various deeds to help the youth of today, and the future. Below are my thoughts on her presentation.


Ilona started her presentation off with a question. She asked us, “are you heard?” When I first heard that question, I was a little confused as to why that was the first question she started with. She then elaborated on that and asked if we are heard when we are speaking to older generations, given that we are all “youth of today.” For the most of it, I can strongly say that the voice of a teenager is only heard on topics that adults assume we can speak on, topic such as music, events, and anything/everything that is assumed to be for the younger generation; we are never asked to speak on community issues, politics, research, etc. I am sure most if not all teenagers have heard “the big people are talking” when they are trying to contribute to a conversation, at least once in their lives.


From there Ilona went on about how teenagers have a lot to contribute and told us about the history behind how society is today, and how the assumptions of teenagers came to be.

The History: It all began 200years ago around the industrial revolution. You see, back then kids were to stay home with their families and help around the house, farm, business, etc. Once they learned one job and could perform it well, they moved on to the next job, it was like an apprenticeship. But when factories started being put up, the kids were out of place, and their help was no longer needed. The kids, or young adults, I should say, had nothing to do, so they “acted out.” They did troublesome duties that got them into trouble and named them Juvenile delinquents. This is where school comes into play, mind you back then schools were only for the rich. However, after seeing that the youth age group were engaged in wrong activities, schools were implemented to give them something to do in the meanwhile. Not too long after, Schools became mandatory, and lasted for longer years. Kids were no longer seen as essential, or an economical asset, rather, they were now seen as a burden. From here, assumption and stereotypes about teenagers went on, and are still carried today.

Separation Between Generations:

Now there is a separation between the generation, which I could say benefits the marketing portion of the business class. Marketers now have a clear view of their target audience, that view has been made by stereotypes. Targeting young adults, or teenagers as they are more known as? Sell them something that will make them feel like an adult. The generation separation does not only affect business views, but it also plays various roles including domestic, educational, independence and more. Teenagers are not seen as their age, or adults. We are told to act like adults, and then told to act our age. We are expected to know “adult topics” but not to speak of it, because we are too young. Young people are seen as useless. Older generations fear teenagers.

Teenage Stereotypes: Throughout my blog, I kept mentioning that Ilona talked about typical teenage stereotypes. I am assured that the majority reading this, or many people who hear the phrase “teenage stereotypes” know exactly what I am referring to. Stereotypes like, teenagers are always on their phones or gadgets, have no worries in the world and think everything comes in the snap of our fingers, teenagers are lazy, we do not understand the value of things and much more. But keep in mind that these stereotypes paint a picture of reality whether it is true or not, many believe the stereotypes are what describes a person of youth. As teenagers, we do not take words like these to heart, as we know who we are, and the stereotypes do not define us. However, Ilona said that such stereotypes must be taken seriously, as the youth of today has a lot to contribute to society and are more than capable. Ilona said that society should re-invent/re-design itself away from such formulaic false theories. Ilona left us with some valuable tips, so that we can amplify our community impact.

  1. Embrace your role

  2. Build integrational partnerships

  3. Stay at the table

These tips that she gave us were from her experiences.


  1. Ilona said that she was thought to think of everything as a learning experience, like many of us if not all are still taught today. She took part in a program where she was to sit at the table and give her ideas. However, she was not given a chance to do so. No one took heed of what she had to offer, and she did not push for it. Ilona said that if she could go back and do things differently, she would focus on contribution and not just learning.

  2. Ilona and a group of other individuals started a program, this program was dedicated and targeted for the people of youth. It stood for what she believes in; teenagers are not what society depicts them to be and are more than useful to society, as they are capable of more than the expectations/minimum. Since their team was small, she could not share to a larger group of people. So, they reached out to elections Canada, where they were recognized for what they had to offer. This led to the youth vote rate to increase by 30%. Ilona said that she could not have done it without allied power/influence. She said that we should find Networks that are supporting and not changing.

  3. Once again, our topic comes back to the depiction of teenagers. Adults do not take us seriously, and expect so to be at the table and listen but not contribute. Ilona said that a lady of Native culture had told her, “A lot of times adults want your presence and not your voice.” Ilona said that there are times where we would have to take care of ourselves and step away from the table, but our contribution matters.


 

Challenge

“Share this infographic and insights about how you can apply these lessons in your own work and life with your community” https://uwaterloo.ca/youth-and-innovation/sites/ca.youth-and-innovation/files/uploads/files/infographics-150_uow_collection_final_amplify-impact.pdf

As a student, my work would be considered school work, some of which I would have to do with a group. Sometimes when the teacher assigns work, I would be put into a group where the students there would not think that I am capable of work. Believe it or not, sometimes they would tell me that I am not capable of it. But as Ilona said, “stay at the table” I always stayed and contributed to the best of my abilities whether they accepted it or not. The only thing I did not do was embrace my role, or try and network with them. My role as a member in the group is to collaborate with everyone else and contribute in order to get the work done, and correct. Instead of embracing that role, I embraced the role of, “I can do it.”


The next time a situation like this occurs, I can surely follow the tips that Ilona gave. Although it is teenagers in group working together, the stereotypes are thrown at each other, so I could gain the groups trust to do the work and play the role of the team member, which was assigned to me. In that way I would also be able to network with likeminded individuals who priorities their education. I would also be considered a member of my school community. Now I have noticed, that teachers, or other employees in school be it my past schools or regular, would change things that were planned by students, or would give feedback that corners the students into giving into the choice that the adult wants. By taking part in school activities, I could contribute, and give my voice, and trust me when I say this, I am a very strong-minded person.

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