MHS students fill leadership roles in Community Conversations event

Amelia Knopp, Page Editor

Two Manhattan High students, freshmen Raisa Hossain and Mian Zhao, served as youth facilitators in the Community Conversations on Race and Reconciliation event last week. The event, led by Manhattan Nonviolence Initiative Director Susanne Glymour and 4-H Community Vitality Team member Dr. Lorenza Lockett, was a collaboration between Kansas State’s Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy and the 4-H Community Vitality Team. The two students were selected to contribute to a discussion on race and reconciliation. 

According to Chase Jordan, the Assistant Project Coordinator for the 4-H Community Vitality Team, this conversation contrasted from previous versions of the K-State Research and Extension Project’s Community Conversations series. 

“Typically, what we do is a very deliberation-style, where you discuss the options of the problem and how to fix the problem, and then there are various actions underneath each option,” Jordan said. “But this one was very different, and it was very unique in that… this was discussing difficult topics in a way that elicits stories to be the main focus of the conversation.”

The conversation revolved around race and reconciliation in USD 383, specifically. 

“A big theme through the youth conversation was the concept of inclusivity and what a teacher and administrator’s role is in that equation,” Jordan said. 

After briefly dividing into Zoom breakout rooms, the participants of the meeting reconvened for a panel. Hossain and Zhao’s roles consisted of sharing personal insights and experiences to the audience of social workers, educators and undergraduate students. Hossain said that she appreciated the adults who dedicated their time on a school night to hear her voice. 

“I definitely think it was a productive conversation because there were a lot of adults there that really wanted to learn about a student’s point of view of how they’re being treated in schools, and if their needs are being met,” Hossain said.

According to Jordan, the 4-H Community Vitality Team’s goal is to engage students in these conversations in safe, accepting spaces. Additionally, the team aims to provide students with the skills to navigate increasingly difficult political and social conversations. 

“These are topics that provide [students] with a greater understanding, not just of the world around them, and the people that they are with, but also a greater understanding of their own personal leadership style,” Jordan said. 

Hossain said that she enjoyed this unique opportunity to contribute to civic engagement.

“A lot of people say that our generation is the future, but we’re also the present,” Hossain said. “And since we’re young, we  have a lot of different input, since times are always changing for us.”