Sixty one high school students from throughout the Virgin Islands came together in December to discuss issues affecting teens and the community, and to develop a youth policy action agenda, at the 5th Annual Youth Summit.
“The summit was important because it showed that teens should have just as much a voice as adults because we are the voice of the Virgin Islands,” said Raven Phillips, a 17-year-old senior at Eudora Kean High School, in a release from the V.I. Education Department.
Phillips, an active member of Close Up who has attended the organization’s national conferences in Washington, DC with other V.I. youth, said she enjoyed the experience.
The budding public servant served as the summit’s steering committee chairperson and chairperson of the Education Committee. She hopes to hold the seat of senator at large in the Virgin Islands one day.
As part of their Agenda for Policy Action, participating students were organized into committees to address matters of concern to teenagers, some of which included crime, recreation, education and others.
“Lack of productive activities is a problem for teenagers,” the students said in a portion of the agenda they presented. “By teens being involved in extracurricular activities, it will offer an opportunity to let students engage in academic curricular. We believe that the United States Virgin Islands government must act to address this issue.”
To bolster recreational activities for young people, the students suggested that a new law be enacted to create “extracurricular activities that will affect the well-being of adolescents.” They said the purpose of the law would be “to ensure the leisure time of adolescents that will promote academic success.”
“In 2015, the Crime Prevention Act, through extracurricular activities, would keep the youths of the U.S.V.I. busy within the community. By this bill being passed, it will decrease underage drinking, drug use and abuse, teenage pregnancy, and violence," they said. The students said they call upon the V.I. Legislature to adopt and pass a new law: The Youth Productive Act, in the current legislative session.
The teens used an array of sources in their research, including questioning a panel of professionals from the public and private sectors, some of which were members of the V.I. Legislature. At the summit’s conclusion, student participants held a youth convention to present their policy proposal.
Hosted by the Close Up Foundation at the Windward Passage Hotel in downtown Charlotte Amalie,
the meeting was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs and afforded students the opportunity to learn about the territory’s legislative process, as well as how to be an active voice in government.