On Friday, February 22, We’Ced Youth Media celebrated its seventh print publication in downtown Merced. Among those present was Joshua Semerjian, a PhD student from UC Merced who has been collaborating with We’Ced for the past year. Joshua and We’Ced have been building a strong mutually rewarding partnership to support the youth reporters in their personal and professional growth, and on the night of the publication party, Joshua had this to share:
Before I get to the importance of tonight’s gathering, I must first thank the Henry Luce Foundation for a fellowship that was awarded to me through the Resource Center for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of California, Merced. Because of their support of my work, I have been able to team up with We’Ced on projects that serve the values and interests of the youth reporters.
Since coming to We’Ced I have often mused what life in Merced would be like if they didn’t have a community support network like Youth Leadership Institute and We’Ced Youth Media. For We’Ced reporters, I can tell this is a place for learning and healing, for intellectual and personal growth. Those are all things young people need – whole person education, and whole person care. Moreover, we must see that care and education are actually not separate things – you can’t achieve one without the other.
It’s also crucial that we understand how young people see the world around them. Their visions make it possible for the community to create pathways and expand horizons that meet them on their terms. I believe in the power of sharing our hearts and our stories, and youth-serving community organizations make space for this kind of group- and self-care.
I firmly hold that we must seek ways to connect all young people’s personal experiences and social-emotional expressions with educational practices. Public education has come a long way, but it has not gone far enough to serve the diversity of experiences and conditions young people are caught up in. That’s why I take the position that wherever there is a youth-serving organization there ought to be a holistic curriculum that teaches the wonders and the worries of human social life. This is about mindfulness of the heart, mind, body, and spirit that connects with real-world experiences and life conditions.
As I see it, We’Ced reporters are doing the kind of community research that is crucial for social and political awareness as well as social-emotional connection and care. We’Ced facilitates the intellectual engagement and the critical consciousness for the youth reporters, but I don’t think that is enough. What I see missing is the rally of the whole community behind the efforts of youth-serving organizations. This is hard work and it is demanded of all of us. Entire communities must come together across all divides to uplift all of the youth because, as my own research reveals, it still takes a village to raise a child.