Giving Teens a Voice

San Ramon Sentinel

Article for PTA Newsletters/San Ramon Valley Sentinel

By Terry Koehne, Public Information Coordinator
San Ramon Valley Unified School District

Teens Use Cutting-Edge Technology to Make Their Voices Heard

The day before Halloween - most teens are worrying about Homecoming festivities, which party they are going to attend, or how to score some Halloween candy (despite the perception that they are too old to "Trick-Or-Treat").  This year more than 40 high school youth were actually taking the time to invest in their community.

On Saturday, October 30th, the community held its first-ever Teen Think Tank, where youth from all five high schools in the district had a formal opportunity to provide substantive feedback on issues that directly effect them. The event was held at Charlotte Wood Middle School in Danville, and was split into two 3-hour sessions. More than 20 teens per session gathered to focus their attention on youth attitudes and behaviors surrounding the issue of teen violence.

The Teen Think Tanks provide a safe environment where young people can express their opinions anonymously through the use of an electronic Meeting System (Group Systems). Using a facilitated approach the teens are led through various activities where they use laptop computers to anonymously identify their issues (particularly as they relate to safety and violence). As a group they proceed to prioritize the top issues teens face and then propose their solutions for each issue.  The information is automatically fed into a network where it is sorted and presented in report form.

By the time the students completed the 3-hour process, they had generated a 110-page report complete with charts, graphs and a myriad of ideas and suggestions regarding causes of youth violence and solutions to these causes. When the students first entered the Library at Charlotte Wood you could detect an air of trepidation and uncertainty. When they left three hours later, enthusiasm and a tremendous sense of accomplishment filled the air. They realized that they were part of something with tremendous potential: potential to provide young people in the San Ramon Valley with a voice; potential to contribute to the process of making the community a safer place for teens.

Listed as one of the higher priority recommendations by the San Ramon Valley Advisory Committee on Youth Safety and Development, the Interactive Teen Think Tanks will continue to provide our community with valuable information directly "from the mouths (or in this case, keyboards) of babes".

For more information regarding the Teen Think Tanks, please contact Terry Koehne at 552-2942 (