HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — When young people gather at Marshall University next month for the second Young WV Power Building Conference, they won’t be looking to identify problems.
The emphasis will be finding solutions for them, according to Matt Jarvis, Marshall University’s Student Body president.
Jarvis and other organizers of the conference recently spoke about the upcoming conference, which will run Sept. 8-10 on Marshall’s campus. It is led and planned by young adults between the ages of 15 and 25 and gives participants an opportunity to network and give presentations on issues they feel should be addressed.
Last year’s conference, also held at Marshall, attracted about 140 participants who addressed topics such as voter engagement, racial justice, mental health and LGBT advocacy. Organizers hope to have 200 or more participants this year.
The conference is hosted by Our Children Our Future, a campaign to end childhood poverty in West Virginia. “They’re presenting on topics and issues that are close to their heart,” said Jennifer Wells, director of youth development and leadership for Our Children Our Future. “No limitations were placed on them as to what they were to present, as long as it was a concern and an issue that they wanted to work on in their school, in their community or in the state.”
Jarvis talked about the conference’s ability to show what the younger generation has to offer in spite of popular stereotypes about the upcoming generation of adults.
“I think the (article) I saw earlier was ‘Millennials are Killing Golf.’ Sorry – I guess, you know, that was one of our priorities,” Jarvis joked. “We get bogged down on things that really don’t matter. And I think it’s nice to come together to bring different ideas, different perspectives, and see what we can offer.”
Logan County resident Kiara Eldridge, who attended the inaugural conference last year, encourages other young adults to attend.
“It’s really important to be able to get together and share ideas, because it’s more important to work as a group instead of trying to take on all the problems by yourself,” Eldridge said. “Eventually you’re gonna get overwhelmed and you’re just gonna want to give up.”
Our Children Our Future and the Young WV Power Building Conference are unique in that they focus on young people’s voices and thoughts rather than just create a token place at the table for a young adult.
“Having a platform that people are actually listening to, they just grow and blossom. We saw that last year at the first conference,” Wells said. “Having that moment when they were actually heard – it was an amazing point, to see that they grew in so many ways.”
Wells encourages sponsors to step forward so that more students can attend.
“We have a number of students from the McDowell area that are wanting to come, but their funding was cut,” she said. “So they are struggling right now to get the funds to travel.”
Potential sponsors can contact Wells at [email protected] Young adults interested in attending the conference can register at www.ocofwv.org