About this time last year, hundreds of Loudoun high school students were preparing to walk out of class to protest the president’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
When word of the walk out got to folks at Loudoun Youth Inc. and IndED Academies, two organizations that provide youth leadership and civics programs, they got to work on creating an outlet for teens to talk about difficult issues.
“I believe in peaceful protest but I also believe in public education,” said Steve Wolfson, executive director of Loudoun Youth Inc. “We recognized there may be a need for an outlet to discuss, debate and discover in a safe environment.”
They created a program called DCUB3D (discuss.debate.discover), and have since held monthly events that invite high school students with varying backgrounds and opinions to talk through tough issues.
Their next event, planned for Thursday, March 8, happens to come as young people nationwide are weighing how to prevent gun violence, and just days before teenagers throughout the county are planning another walk out.
The DCUB3D event, where students can share their concerns and ideas on school safety, will include three simultaneous forums at 7 p.m. March 8 at three locations: Purcellville Library, Sterling Library, and Rust Library in Leesburg. Teens are asked to RSVP by texting which location they plan to attend to 703-626-4888.
The forums will be professionally moderated and the teens will be encouraged to engage in meaningful dialog about the recent shootings and their feelings surrounding this issue. The organizers stressed that the forums are not rallies and that no one stance will be pushed. And, just as important, adults are not invited to participate.
“This is meant to be a platform for teens to discuss important issues, especially with people who we might disagree with,” said 16-year-old Cynthia Liang, a Stone Bridge High School junior and member of the Youth Advisory Council. She and her classmates are often discouraged to talk about controversial issues in school, she added.
“This is on all of our minds, so we want to talk about why gun control laws should or should not be pushed for, and understand where we can compromise to ensure students and teachers are safe while the right to bear arms is still present.”
Other DCUB3D events have had teens debate and discuss mental health, youth suicide, gender awareness, stress, and the pros and cons of Metro coming to Loudoun.
Butch Porter, founder and president of IndED Academies, described the DCUB3D forums as “anti-rallies.” Rallies bring together like-minded people to push a particular stance, he said. “Instead, we’re getting people who disagree with something to talk about it civilly. It’s takes practice to listen to people who disagree with you, and there’s just not time in a typical school setting to do that.”
And he noted that the adults in the room, including himself, stay fairly quiet. “We ask as few questions as we can to keep the dialogue going, but we really want it to be student led.”
The DCUB3D events fit with the mission of Loudoun Youth Inc. and IndED Academies. Loudoun Youth Inc. offers programs that empower and provide leadership opportunities for young people. IndED Academies, located in downtown Leesburg, provides courses and programs in arts, civics and science. To host the March 8 forums, the two organizations are also working with Loudoun County Public Libraries, which is providing the space.
Learn more about DCUB3D at dcub3d.com.