Students foster community conversations

Glenbrook North sophomore Praajna Jain was perched on the edge of her seat, waiting on stage as a crowd of nearly 90 community members gathered to hear her speak. 

Students, parents and village officials were among those gathered October 16 at the Northbrook Public Library to hear Jain and her peers speak on the topic of youth stress. Jain was accompanied by junior Josh Yang and senior Jennifer Shin. All three are members of the Northbrook Youth Commission, a village board-appointed group of adults and students who have a strong interest in the local community.

The purpose of the forum was to foster conversations between community members and youth on stressful topics that are encountered everyday, said Carla Martens, Youth Commission chair.

“By approaching these topics though a fruitful, civil and public conversation as moderated by a professional therapist and as initiated by a few thoughtful high school students – willing and brave enough to take the microphone – we hope to get to know each other [and live together] in more meaningful and maybe even happier ways,” Martens told the audience.

After the three students shared their tips for dealing with the stresses of school, social media and self care, the floor was opened up to the audience for questions. 

Parents and teachers of younger children thanked the panelists for sharing their stories. They said they felt deeply connected to the topics as they hope to help their children navigate the Internet, school and a healthy social life.

“Thank you for coordinating this event,” one parent said. “I was impressed with the youth who bravely and honestly shared their stories.”

Jain said it took bravery and self assurance to get on stage at the forum.

“I found it challenging because I was worried about how people would perceive me,” she said. 

Reflecting on the experience, Jain said the audience’s positive feedback helped her realize that youth should be respected and valued within the community. 

“The Youth Commission is a place where youth can feel [those things],” she said. “The youth forum gives people a way to reach into that community of support.” 

Students foster community conversations