The power of youth voice: student advocates for change using Dane Co. survey data

DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV)-- High school sophomore Khaddy Jarjou is inspired to improve the lives of youth in Dane County, and she has the numbers to spark change.

Khaddy Jarjou attends a data workshop at the Voice of Our Youth Research Summit.

At the first Voice of Our Youth Research Summit, community members, including students like Jarjou, analyzed the findings of the 2018 Dane County Youth Assessment.

The most recent survey (historically released every three years) asked 120 questions about a variety of topics, from anxiety to vaping.

Connie Bettin is a staff member to the Dane County Youth Commission, which led the survey. She said, “We sometimes wonder with young people, ‘What's going on in your world?’ This is one snapshot where they tell us, ‘Here's what's happening. Pay attention.’”

The survey captured student life at home and school, asking more than 20,000 Dane County students who took it, to answer tough questions, like why they might feel anxious. One of the main reasons students feel anxious, according to survey results, is not fitting in at school.

Jarjou, also on the youth commission, said that she sees the findings of the survey in everyday student life, not just at La Follette High School, where she attends.

“There's always youth that are saying, 'At my school I don't have anybody that I connect with,’” she said. “I feel like every single place we [the youth commission] went to, We've really seen that expressed by almost all the youth.”

Jarjou talked about the importance of youth speaking up for themselves. “I feel like we need more youth voice in our schools because when youth speak, they know what’s best for them, more than any adult or what anybody else knows.”