Teen Summit: New Generation of Community-Minded Citizens

The first annual Teen Summit was held at the Des Moines Social Club on January 24-25.

There’s a fire at the firehouse!

Actually, it’s not a firehouse anymore, it’s the work-in-progress new headquarters of the Des Moines Social Club, a performing arts hub downtown. And the fire there is the figurative but raging one that is our city’s first annual Teen Summit, brought to you by the students in the Urban Leadership 101 class at Central Campus and delegations of their counterparts from each of the district’s five comprehensive high schools.

The Social Club is only a block south of the DMPS administrative offices but the Teen Summit is even closer to the district’s mission than that. It goes to the essence of raising up a new generation of community-minded citizens, educated and practiced in the ways of change agency.

The two-day event opened Friday morning and proceeded through a series of panel discussions, town hall-styled meetings and workshops dealing with issues and art forms dear to the hearts of young people before culminating with a live performance and celebration on Saturday night.

If it sounds like a Rollins & Lang production, well, you guessed it. Kristopher and Emily are the UL 101 teachers. But their vision is being realized by a wide swath of community support.

Official sponsors besides the Social Club are Orchestrate Hospitality, Job Corps, Gateway Market and Raygun.

The idea came off the drawing board when the UL 101 students were asked to nominate like-minded teachers and students from their home high schools. Rolllins and Lang followed up with the nominees and the district-wide critical mass of delegates was assembled. Then sponsors got behind it. And now it’s happening, begging questions as to next steps for this evolving community of student activists.

“The weekly writing workshop has already expanded to East (site of the last and next Share the Mic poetry events),” Lang said, prompting Rollins to add, “We can imagine all the high schools eventually competing versus each other in poetry slams,” as this irresistible force called variously Movement 515, RunDSM, Share the Mic, Energetic Reciprocity and, now, Teen Summit, scales up and spreads. Like wildfire.

Friday’s agenda was strictly for the kids.

“It’s important to provide these incredible youth with safe spaces where they can express themselves unfiltered and forge bonds with one another,” Lang explained.

But on Saturday afternoon the public was also invited to the Kum and Go Theater space at the Social Club to participate in a community panel discussion and watch the student showcase. Invited? That’s accurate but incomplete. Advised might be a better word – the public is advised to come and hear from these young leaders and visionairies.

After all, how often do you get a chance to be a summiteer?

Photos from Day One of the RunDSM Teen Summit

DMPS-TV Report on Day One of Teen Summit

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