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MoCo students share concerns with County Council at Youth Summit

SILVER SPRING — In a room full of Montgomery middle-school and high-school students, Hailey Gordon, 15, a sophomore at Watkins Mill High School, said she is frustrated with her teachers. 

“It just frustrates me a lot because what I want to do, people make it seem like it’s not really possible,” said Gordon. “I just want to make art and sell it to people, but I’m always like, told that’s it kind of like you’re going to want another plan because that’s probably not going to work [well] for you or not going to work at all,” Gordon said when asked what makes her frustrated in school.

Montgomery County Department of Recreation hosted its fifth annual Youth Summit at the Silver Spring Civic Center for middle- and high-school students to share their experiences, complaints, and concerns with County Council members and other local officials during a town hall-style meeting. One by one, students from different schools, ages, and backgrounds discussed what was troubling them. Issues ranging from bullying and underqualified teachers to cafeteria options were all discussed by the students.

“We do this annually to give young people here in Montgomery County a voice,” said Marhonda Williams, recreation supervisor for Montgomery County Department of Recreation. “We invite decision-makers and county politicians out to hear the concerns, the fears, and the hopes of young people so that they can take it back to their offices and make a difference, make an impact on things that young people are facing every day.” 

Along with Council members and local officials, Montgomery County staffers were in attendance in support of the students they mentor. 

“Just having all the youth here today was awesome, because it’s good that they are able to give their feedback to the adults and that the adults were taking notes to hopefully make some change in the County,” said Elijah Davis, 28, a recreational specialist for the youth development division of the Montgomery County Department of Recreation. “The kids are really frustrated.”

Davis said he believes students should help other students, and if they have a problem, they can all come together and speak to their administrators as one to voice their concerns. During the town hall, a student from the audience pointed at Davis and said he was her motivator. She thanked him for listening to her issues. 

“I love my job,” said Davis. “What keeps me going, honestly, is the students, I was actually really surprised to hear someone shout me out. I’m a really humble person and really don’t want to get a lot of credit for anything I do.” 

The students continued to explain to the panel members what they wish to see in the future. Laylee Suliman, 14, an eighth-grader at Argyle Middle School, said she doesn’t even know why students are referred to counselors, because, most of the time, when she needs help, the counselors are unavailable.

“I'm glad that I have a role model, but I know that a lot of people don’t,” said Suliman, as she held a microphone while speaking to the crowd. Suliman added, “Like, everyone always tells us go to the counselors – they’ll help you – but the one time you gather the courage to go talk to them, they're not in or they’re never there to talk to you, so why would you even refer us to someone that’s not going to help us?”

At the end of the town hall, the students were dismissed and provided dinner while they waited for their buses to return home. 

“My message to teachers is to not tell a student that it’s not going to work; you have to give them some sort of a belief that it can possibly happen,” said Gordon. “Just don’t tell a student that it’s pretty much impossible; give them some sort of hope.” 

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