For nearly 25 years, the Connecticut Forum has played an integral role supporting the arts and community in Connecticut with live conversations among well-known celebrities and experts who discuss everything from politics and global affairs to race relations to creativity and innovation.
The Connecticut Forum also supports the community through the Connecticut YOUTH Forum, a community outreach program that enables more than 750 diverse high school students from 40 urban, suburban, and rural high schools throughout Greater Hartford to connect and engage with each other across geographic, economic, social and racial divides.
The Connecticut Youth Forum—Providing A Voice to CT Teens
“The Connecticut YOUTH Forum fills a unique gap,” explains Ruth Cullen, Director, Advancement & Communications at the Connecticut Forum. “It provides teenagers with an opportunity to grow as leaders and communicators. Everyone has a voice.”
Launched in 1993, the Connecticut YOUTH Forum was established for teens by teens to provide an open forum where youth can be accepted, encouraged, and validated. Members are working to shape the future though discussion, action, growth and exploration.
“At the core of the program there is a culture of validation,” says Ruth. “Learning to listen to and hear each other and talk to each other in a respectful manner is crucial to living in a civil society,” she notes. “This is one of many things the Connecticut YOUTH Forum encourages.”
There is no cost for individual students to participate in the Connecticut YOUTH Forum. The free program is funded through corporate, foundation, individual, and school support.
Connecticut Youth Forum Activities
From monthly meeting to roundtable panels to signature annual events, the Connecticut YOUTH Forum has a variety of leadership development and enrichment activities.
YOUTH Forum Monthly Meetings (School Sessions)
Monthly meetings involve large group discussions for 200+ students at different area high schools centered on topics such as peer pressure, identity, youth violence, culture and stereotypes, and leaders and followers.
The YOUTH Forum Leadership Network
The Network meets on a monthly basis to discuss and plan YOUTH Forum events such as monthly School Sessions and the Annual Student Exchange. The group is comprised of 25 to 30 YOUTH Forum student volunteers who are given opportunities to participate in Connecticut Forum theater events and service learning projects and programs.
The Student-Panelist Roundtable
A group of eight students selected based on merit, attendance, and enthusiasm from the Connecticut YOUTH Forum is invited to attend Connecticut Forum theater events at The Bushnell Theater. The students meet and interview world-renowned Connecticut Forum panelists before each Forum begins.
“These events provide life-changing opportunities for students,” Ruth emphasizes.
The Connecticut YOUTH Forum Annual Student Exchange Event
The latest signature event took place March 15 at the University of Hartford. The 22nd annual event drew about 300 students from more than 20 Greater Hartford high schools.
Students participated in a full day of adult-facilitated small and large group discussions, activities, and workshops based around the topic, “Your Education By: YOU!”—a topic that was chosen by teens involved with the program emphasizing student-centered learning.
“These events are good for our students. Our school is very STEM-focused. These events are very humanistic,” said Jerry Crystal, Magnet Theme Coach at the CREC Academy of Aerospace and Engineering in Windsor, CT. This is our first year participating,” he added. “We wanted to become involved because it gives kids a whole other way to connect to others. It’s a ‘strangers on a train’ kind of situation.”
The Connecticut YOUTH Forum is a program of The Connecticut Forum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage the free and active exchange of ideas in Forums that inform, challenge, entertain, inspire, and build bridges among all people and organizations in our community. To learn more about the Connecticut Forum, visit www.ctforum.org.
For information about the Connecticut YOUTH Forum, visit www.ctforum.org/youth-forum.