Urgent, Inc. is an organization focused on youth and community development. I worked closely with this site to fulfill my practicum requirement, and felt so passionate about their goals that I became involved in multiple projects. The most challenging for me was a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Urgent, Inc. The idea behind this project was to gather community members for a discussion focused on teen dating violence and recognizing the signs of trafficking. The teen members of Urgent, Inc. produced a film that highlighted the varied faces of teen dating violence, as well as a play that showed how easily young people can be pulled into the world of human trafficking. Both productions were shown at the Town Hall, and followed by a short panel to answer community members’ questions regarding the topics.
After the panel, I led a discussion with attendees looking to find community specific solutions to these problems. As an outsider, I had to be very careful to my approach. I knew that while these issues are also prominent where I grew up, the culture of the community is different. There could be no assumptions. With that, I consulted with cohort members most familiar with the areas served by Urgent, Inc. I spent some time sitting in on the Rites of Passage after school program at Booker T. Washington Senior High. With every opportunity I did my best to listen and ask questions. These experiences then informed my approach at the Town Hall.
Along with leading this discussion, I developed a survey specific to the event in order to provide Urgent, Inc. with a method for data collection to inform future projects. The survey is intended to measure any increase in knowledge about the issues portrayed by the productions, as well as perceived causes of these social issues. Overall, the Town Hall went quite well. Community members were ready to discuss their experiences with these issues as well as barriers within the community. The experience was incredibly educational as I was able to try my hand at engaging in community based participatory research. While the process was intensive and stressful at time, I found it invaluable. It made me feel as though you can never truly understand what that process looks like until you have done it yourself.