Story Corps


  los cien youth perspective photophoto credit: Noah Abrams/KRCB
Student panelists address the crowd at
Los Cien's Youth Perspective

The school year is winding down, but on Friday, May 23rd, dozens of educators, educational leaders, and local organizations gathered for Los Cien’s “Youth Perspective” program held at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa.

The student panelists all agreed the timing wasn’t the best - smack dab in the middle of finals prep - but having the space to give their personal thoughts on the state of their schools was part of the program goal for Los Cien’s director, Herman G. Hernandez.

"I think this was an excellent start and I know a lot of school districts and including the Sonoma County Office of Education are already working towards some of their recommendations, but I think it's important for the adults to know where the youth are because sometimes we never engage the students," Hernandez said.

Los Cien, the Latino community nonprofit, organized the youth-led panel.

It addressed issues in Sonoma County’s schools ranging from violence to the accessibility - or lack thereof - to advanced placement courses.

Student panelist Sofi Pardo said the panel was a good starting place.

"I think conversations like these are important and this is like the first of many hope, just not only for Los Cien but for district officials and schools and themselves," Pardo said.

Pardo, from Santa Rosa, said the city’s schools need to begin with getting the basics right.

"Basic safety and empathy is something that I hope to see," Pardo said.

Even with graduation on the horizon, panelist Amy Cohen, like Pardo, said they hope to see student safety and well-being at the center of change.

"I really think that we need to radically rethink the way we do youth engagement," Cohen said. "Really important. I think right now students don't feel safe and don't feel comfortable and I think there's so much that we didn't get to talk about there and didn't get to spend a lot of time on, but I think there's just a lot of work still that needs to be done."

Kevin Olalde, another student panelist, reiterated Cohen’s call to the community to listen to students and young people more.

"We definitely want the community engaged in this more than anything to see all these topics, academic experience, a minority experience that, you know, all these great things that the community can do better for youth, for themselves," Olalde said.

Each student panelist said getting to work with peers from different schools was one of the most rewarding parts of the experience - a collaboration Cohen spoke to in their own words.

"Meeting students from across the county who are interested and concerned and doing like the same work that I'm doing was incredibly energizing and I think I really needed," Cohen said.

Hernandez closed the program with a call not only for continued conversation, but for action on the issues raised by the students.

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