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Teens Speak Out: Youth With Vision

Local teen leaders are cutting through the red tape and speaking with their state lawmakers about drugs and mental health…

“My name is Norah Pruitt and I am a Senior at Park Hill South High School. Before we begin, I would like to remind you about our coalition and its mission. Youth With Vision is a student-led organization made up of 8th through 12th graders in the Clay, Platte, and Ray counties. We work to prevent youth substance use and promote mental wellness” I say, as I stand in front of one of our many Missouri legislators. If you had asked me a few years ago, I never would have thought that I’d be in a position to be an advocate at this level, and at such a young age, but I’m so glad that I am able to use my voice to make a difference.

Youth With Vision Seniors 2024
2024 Youth With Vision Seniors

Youth With Vision (YWV) does a lot for its cause, one of those being Prevention Day. Prevention Day is a highlight of every member’s YWV experience. On this day, we travel to our state capital in Jefferson City to talk to state legislators about bills that affect youth. It was a very rewarding experience to be able to talk to legislators about issues that affect me personally. The idea seems scary at first, but the reality is that they are just people like us trying to make a difference. At these meetings, YWV talked about bills pertaining to tobacco, marijuana, cannabinoids, and mental health. While legislators are in charge of developing laws on these topics, they don’t always know the true effect of them, especially when it comes to youth. That’s where we come in – by sharing our personal stories, facts, and opinions, we are able to give legislators new information and perspectives that will help them to better understand the choices they are making.

Youth With Vision members speaking to a legislator

Youth With Vision works hard to research and prepare information on these topics in order to advocate for youth and educate others. One key issue we noted is that there tends to be a lot of preemptive language in these bills which takes away power from local government and gives most of the power to state government. YWV is against this because every city is different. Local governments should be able to make decisions about their cities’ specific circumstances. The legislators were very welcoming and seemed intrigued by what we were saying on this subject.

Youth With Vision members speaking to a legislator

We also had the opportunity to sit in on the House and Senate daily legislative sessions. It was very interesting to see how the sessions were held and how the legislators interacted with each other. I never knew all the discussion that went into lawmaking until I got the opportunity to sit in on these sessions. Everyone in attendance spoke so quickly that I could barely keep up…and some of these discussions became quite spirited (and at times were rather discourteous). It seems to me that a lot of this could be avoided if both sides made a greater effort to really listen to what the other side was saying.

The Missouri House going about its daily session

Overall, Prevention Day was a very exciting and educational experience, and I believe that the legislators would agree. Youth With Vision is anxious to see what happens next with these bills!

GrowStrongKC guest writer Norah Pruitt is a senior at Park Hill South.

For more information on Youth With Vision and how to join, visit http://youthwithvisionkc.org.

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