What’s in a Name?
By La-Verna Fountain
In May, I traveled to Utah to present two workshops at the Promising Youth Conference. It was the 40thyear for the statewide conference. According to their website, the conference was designed to support “professionals from education, the juvenile court, human services, juvenile justice and public/private treatment resources” working with at-risk and under-resourced children and youth, “who are experiencing educational, legal, behavioral, and/or mental health challenges.”
Over the years, I had participated in the conference providing the keynote address, offering different trainings and meeting with young people who were institutionalized. For most of the 40 years, the annual conference was entitled the Troubled Youth Conference. The descriptor was accurate and flawed.
Everyone’s life at one time or another is troubled. Yet, the manner in which we are viewed impacts us. Labels follow us. Young people either grow to believe a label such as troubled or they continually fight against it. Together, we must choose to see the enormous potential of our young people.
More than a decade ago, I spoke with the organizer’s and suggested they change the name of the conference from Troubled Youth to Promising Youth. I believed the young people, while experiencing a rough patch, truly were promising. They looked at me with that look you give a naïve person and their smiles were the smiles of people who did not want to offend me. Since I did not live or work in Utah, did not understand all of the challenges they had to face and had not contributed a dime to the conference, my unsolicited opinion was not welcomed.
In late 2018, I received a call from one of the organizers asking me to return. Then, she paused and said, “We did it. We changed the name.” It is now the Annual Conference of Agencies and Organizations Servicing Promising Youth.
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