The Office of Population Affairs (OPA) opened the Youth Create! call to young people ages 13 to 21 who currently participate or have participated in OPA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) programs. Youth Create! 2022 focused on youth expression and how adults can support them. Youth across the country responded to the prompts below.
- One thing I wish adults listened to me and my friends about is…
- What is a time that you really felt heard and it made a difference in your life and/or the lives of others your age?
- Who or what has helped you feel able to speak up for yourself or on behalf of others your age?
The gallery below shares young people’s responses, which ranged from original poems, essays, artwork, and videos. All submissions are largely in their original form to retain the youth’s authentic voice. Only video background music was changed to adhere to copyright laws.
Chance W., Dakota F., Makayla B., Marcus B., Matthew W., Mykalal T., and Rihiana R. (Augusta CAREs, Georgia)
Claudine L., Khayla P., Monica J., Nivic H., and Trinity S. (OIC of South Florida, Florida)
Marina J. (RHEP, California)
There is always that little voice
The one you hear from inside
The one that tells you something is wrong
The voice you cannot easily subside
Who really are these people?
Surely, this is not what life is about
Your family is not supposed to berate you
Instill you with shame and self-doubt
I don’t want to be controlled anymore
I just want to be myself, who I want to be
I don’t want to be a nuisance or your puppet
I just want to be free
The freedom to actually know who I am
What I want, my goals, desires, and needs
I wish you would stop pretending you love me
I wish you would stop claiming good deeds
The truth is you abused me
And I never deserved that
I am done with trying to placate you
You’re never there for me when up to bat
I am done playing this game
It is very hard, but I am leaving you behind
I just cannot keep doing this anymore
Because I am losing my mind
The voice inside, that is you
Struggling to make its way out
You should always listen to it and express it
But sometimes it is just better to leave, so you won’t have to shout
It is okay to get away from people that make you sick
Give yourself time to heal
Learn who you are and love yourself, because remember...
You are the real deal.
Sophie D. (TPPI/Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia)
Thursday, March 13, 2020- It was a hot but fun day,
Being in The Club was the responsible way.
Boys & Girls come here to do more than just play.
I was in an environment that taught me structure, life and job skills and how to be a productive citizen
This Thursday, no different than the others.
The only change is- CNN had this one covered.
The Clubs’ phone rang – “Hello”
Ma’am we need for you to close your door!!
It was a hot but fun day,
COVID 19 took all that away
We thought, being in The Club was the responsible way!
They said keep your Face covered, hands clean and everything would be okay
Sadly, that was not true and the people around us had no real clue
My friendly neighbor, “The Undertaker” became a real sad sight to see because COVID 19 made his business increase.
The Club was the safe place for me but now everyone is scared to even breathe
Thursday, March 13, 2020 – It was a hot but fun day
Two years later a lot has changed
Being in The Club is the responsible way our programs have resumed & and the kids have returned to play.
Being in The Club is the responsible way but I still can’t see my friend’s full face.
June 22, 2022
Gabrielle J. (SNAPP, Georgia)
I wish my Mom understood more…
Lilly: *Gets home from school and waits for her mother to get home*
Mom/Daniel: *Gets home clearly upset* “Lily, do you not see these dishes in the sink?! Where are your brother and sister? I know good dang well you're not in this room sleep and you haven't done anything all day!”
Lily: * Gets up quickly setting the scene that she wasn’t sleep* “No mom, I'm up, I put Jamal and Kensly to sleep and made dinner. Mom, it's 7:30pm and I’ve been at school all day. I've showered and cleaned the house top to bottom, can I please go to sleep?”
Mom: “No, I'm going out on a date and I need you to be up. I'll be back later tonight.”
12:15am hits and Lilly checks her phone. No messages from her mother, her siblings are sound asleep. She realizes that it's getting really late for her to be up knowing she has a club meeting tomorrow early in the morning. She falls asleep only to be woken up in the morning at 4:34am.
Mom: “You had one job, to stay up with your sister and brother and now look at Jamal, crying with a dirty diaper. Go change his diaper and fix their bottles while I shower.”
Lilly: “I don’t understand why you are just getting home so late and why I have to take care of your kids. I’m tired, I’ve been up since 5:30 in the morning all week getting Jamal and Kensly ready for daycare and myself ready for school. Get home, sometimes make dinner, do my homework, put the twins to sleep, and clean the house. I need a break mom too.”
Mom: “I didn’t hear anything about you having to go to work, pay bills, not have a night out to see friends, or having kids. You still have that club that you begged to go to. Maybe if you actually went you wouldn’t be complaining this much.”
Lilly: * thinks to herself* “I would love to go but I don’t have the required sleep or a dependable ride to take me. I wish she would just hear me out and understand where I’m coming from.”
Sophie D. (TPPI/Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia)
Who or what has helped you feel able to speak up for yourself or on behalf of others your age?
I participated in the iLead summer program in 2021 and I look forward to participating again in July 2022. iLead is a community program for high school students. That focuses on leadership skills, communicating effectively, appreciating differences, team building and goal setting. During the week-long camp program, I developed an understanding of how teens using their voice helps shape our community. I was in a group with 3 of my friends. Our community topic was “What is something we think should be in the world?” my group selected an “Escape Room.” The purpose of the escape room is to give people a mental health break, an area to relax and give themselves a sense of peace during their workday.
iLead and the Boys and Girls Club Youth Leadership Council has pushed me to be an advocate for teens. The Youth Leadership Council put me in a position where I had to speak up about teen pregnancy and prevention. I am so happy to have people in my life that advised me to take part in Teen Sexual Health Courses. I was proud to represent my family, my Boys and Girls Club and my YLC at a Regional Teen Health Conference in 2020. We constructed a tri-fold board that told our year long story and showed our hard work advocating for teen sexual health to help reduce the birth rates in my community. My ability to verbally speak up allowed my YLC to bring home the 1st place ribbon.
I know in my heart that if I continue to allow supportive people to guide me in the right direction and show that my efforts are sincere when I use my voice to speak up about teen issues it may one day lead to a successful career.
Luis M. (Touchstone Health Services, Arizona)
One thing I wished adults listened to me and my friends about is the importance of caring and healing our planet for future generations. In order for humans and animals to continue living on Earth, we have to make this a habitable place. Caring for the animals who are endangered is very important so we can continue to see these animals for future generations.
Tanya G. (Project STIQ, New York)
Ana Laura A., Elise T., Grace M., Leah L., Makayla M., Sydney W., and Trevor B. (WYSHIIN Youth Collaborative, Washington)
August W., Aza G., Divya S., Felix I., Jasmine Si., Jaylon C., Jessica O., Kaitlin C., Karen G., Raygan J., Roman P., Ryan M., Valeria P., Xavier M., and Zhi C. (Connect Spartanburg, South Carolina)
Jamileth R. (RHEP, California)
Here is my content submission for Youth Create! I will be responding to the following question: What is a time that you felt heard and it made a difference in your life and/or the lives of others your age?
A time that I felt heard and made a difference in my life along with my community of foster youth was during the Pop-Up Shopping Day with Foster Nation. It was one of the very few times that I had a shopping experience with the support of a dedicated team of volunteers that did not question my experiences, treated me with respect, and care. Expressing my needs was as simple as filling out a google form stating that I was a size medium, wore size 7 in womens shoes, requested menstrual products, and that I needed professional clothing. These requests were all met at the pop up shopping experience along with other goodies such as skincare which I had never experienced before. I appreciated the uniqueness of being in solidarity with other foster youth, being supported, and feeling a rush of positive emotions. Walking away with all my new clothes, accessories, and toiletries made me feel heard and supported. I felt like I was secure enough to thrive for the upcoming months. The sense of security I felt was immense and I did not question the validity of the opportunity provided to me by generous donors and volunteers. I am still learning to advocate for myself and my needs as well as identify who is able to apprehend my words and worries especially during difficult times like a global pandemic. It is relieving to know that there are people and organizations trying to address these gaps for underrepresented populations such as foster youth. Thank you Foster Nation!
I also wanted to share a bit of my art paintings that I was able to do over my quarantine. It is my first time voluntarily painting and was a very empowering experience for me as well. Like many others, I had a lot of time to reflect and think about all the good people in my life that I was grateful for. While I watched anime on Netflix, I would also sketch some of my favorite characters on paper and I ended up making a purchasing canvas to paint for all the people that I wanted to thank. Oftentimes, I feel like I dont have much to give other than my friendship which is priceless in comparison to material items, but painting those canvases empowered me significantly. I realized that it did not matter what I painted or how messy the outcome was because that cavas would exist through my creation and it was overall a therapeutic experience for me to get lost in the process of crafting each one. Now, I like to make paintings in my free time and give them to people I love and it creates a deeper connection which we can bond over.
Daniel B. (RHEP, California)
Man I got these pandemic blues don't know what to do I feel like the world feels the same way too. Tapped into pieces of myself I didn't know existed like boy your gifted I shifted as the whole world shifted you dig it. I had to dig in decided im taking this pandemic and winning.
Music and dance became a new romance because I tried it with a man but they all just made me hurt more.
Slowly embraced all sides of myself had time to figure it all out not caught up in the everyday hassle.
Things slowed down I moved faster and I'm still moving slow. Well everyone settled down collected an unemployment check I did my best to be my best. Always asked what's next. Work, dance, music repeat it helped me get through some things and honestly helped with my sanity. Baby your a king you've done so much slow down please. Now gotta keep going see this pandemic was a daily for people like me so it really didn't change a thing.
Adalynn P. (Touchstone Health Services, Arizona)
"Who or what has helped you feel able to speak up for yourself or on behalf of others your age?”
Personally, I don't really know what help me come out of my shell. To me I've never really had a shell. I've always been bold and outgoing! But I can give a good chunk of credit to my siblings. I have two sisters and one brother, I'm the eldest of them. I would watch my sisters a lot so I would know how to speak for them. I'll use my brother for example, he does this dance when he needs to use the bathroom. I can recognize that! I just know when someone's nervous, help them. When someone's sad, comfort them. When someone doesn't want to speak for themselves, speak for them. I like to help people, so I guess it’s kind of an instinct to speak for myself or others. It makes me feel warm inside knowing I can and did help some when they are struggling to get out their words! So, my answer to, "Who or what has helped you feel able to speak up for yourself or on behalf of others your age?" Would be that I'm an older sister that likes to help. Another thing that has helped me, is something I did a little while back. I was in a youth panel for Touchstones Adolescent Conference! It was very nerve racking because there was a professional videographer to record us. One by one we took our turns answering the questions, it was VERY scary but so fun! We all talked and helped each other feel like it was ok to go through and complete the video. After that, I was better at being able to help or speak for people when they are anxious or stressed!