The Palmer-Monroe Community Center hosted a panel for Tallahassee teens to discuss taboo issues on Friday.
The College Reach-Out Program teamed up with Florida A&M’s Student Social Work Association to host “Let me holla at you” a panel of mentors and college students that led a discussion with middle and high school students.
Approximately 60 teens attended, responding to questions presented by the panel. Katisa Donaldson, member of the FAMU SSWA was a panel member.
Donaldson opened up the discussion with a few key concepts such as respect and self-worth, how to know if a relationship was healthy, and domestic abuse.
To the shock of the room, a 16-year-old stood up, grabbed the microphone, and confessed to her peers that she had previously been involved in an abusive relationship. Her precocity was evident as she stood and gave a heart-felt soliloquy. “Stand up, don’t back down” she urged the teens. “If you’re in an abusive situation, get out of it…Now!”
A sense of empowerment filled every corner of the room as teens began opening up about their experiences.
“That is what this event is about” said Donaldson, who has served the community at FAMU DRS and the Walker Ford Community Center on the city’s south side. “We want to give our teens the chance to vent without worrying about being judged. This is their vehicle to express themselves and learn how to love themselves before they love someone else.”
Many of the mentors in attendance have been involved in the teens’ lives for five years or more. Many of the teens look at the mentors as extended parts of their family. In many cases, the watch them grow from teenagers to adults and this is what solidifies the bond between them.
The event was not limited to dismal recollections of the past, it had a lively portion as well. The issues turned fiery when the room was divided by gender.
This is when many of the teens became most vocal. The panel asked the question, “What does trust mean to you?” At least eight teens jumped out of their seats to dash for the microphone.
It became clear that each gender had its own definition of trust because the female section was howling at the male section in disagreement.
The disagreement was resolved when the female section made the response: “Trust is a two-way street that both sides have to walk on.”
Now more than ever, teens seem to be placing their trust in the superficial. They hardly recognize they are being mentally penetrated by television, music, and societal influences, according to Donaldson and other panel members.
“With so many teenagers dropping out of school and being raised with a lack of positive role models, events like this are essential,” said Isaac Morgan, a CROP student advocate. “These kids just need someone to talk to, that’s what I’m here for.”