CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Feb. 2, 2021) – A “teen town hall,” the first of its kind on Camp Zama, was meant to provide youths here with a space to discuss sensitive topics and bolster their resiliency and confidence, the installation’s Youth Center director said.
The event, held Jan. 29 inside the Youth Center gymnasium, brought together about 25 participants, including various panel members and other subject-matter experts, and came about at the suggestion of several of the center’s young patrons, said Hannah Maza.
"Some of the teens expressed that they’d like to have an opportunity to discuss topics that are currently happening stateside and around the world,” Maza said. “The Youth Center team and I believed that creating a space for them to discuss those topics would motivate them to stay up to date and aware of what is happening in different parts of the world.”
The Keystone Club, a leadership development club at Camp Zama Middle High School, facilitated the event. Club leadership took suggestions from their fellow ZMHS students and narrowed the focus to three topics: mental health, relationships and beauty standards.
Keshawn McNeill, vice president of the Keystone Club and a junior at ZMHS, said the questions arose during the town hall elicited some valuable insight from the panel members and made him realize that both teens and adults struggle with issues related to the topics they discussed.
“I believe that the participants left with some good advice and gained a lot of knowledge,” said Keshawn, who also acted as master of ceremonies at the event.
Keshawn said he considered the town hall to be a success, adding that he would look forward to working with the Youth Center again to host another event in the future, because "there are so many more topics and subjects to talk about.”
Maza agreed, saying she received feedback from young participants who said they enjoyed hearing from the panel, and from adult attendees who said they enjoyed hearing about issues from the teens’ perspectives.
“I think Camp Zama’s teens have a lot to say, and this was a great opportunity for them to express themselves there,” Maza said. “I think it was received well by all ages.”
Darren Powell, a Family Advocacy Program specialist assigned to Camp Zama’s Army Community Service, was one of the three panel members at the town hall. Powell said he spoke about issues such as the importance of self-care, making good relationship choices, and being comfortable with oneself.
“The questions and topics that teens brought up at the event were outstanding, very rounded, and touched on several important aspects of the teen experience,” Powell said. “It was excellent, well-organized, and there were insightful questions and great participation.”
Sofia Barrineau, a sophomore at ZMHS, praised the town hall for being “very informative” and said she will definitely take some of the things she learned about aspects of her own mental health and apply them in order to manage some of the stressors in her life.
If given the option in the future, Sofia said she would go to as many town hall meetings as she could and bring her friends with her.