Vail Daily column: Giving voice to what matters | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Giving voice to what matters

Do youth really have a voice in this community and do they believe they can make a difference? The answer, of course, is yes! Youth in this valley are involved, thoughtful and many do believe that their voice is heard and is making a difference. Sarahi Marin is a senior at Battle Mountain High School who has made a great impact in supporting the lives of youth in the community by believing her input matters. Sarahi has been a part of many community organizations that promote her participation and voice, including Upward Bound, Yearbook, Choir, Future Business Leaders of America, Habitat for Humanity and the Youth Leaders Council through the Eagle River Youth Coalition. Through these experiences, Sarahi has been given opportunities to provide feedback and input on many matters that affect youth, including programs, services, media messages and future opportunities.

Sarahi believes that her experiences have prepared her for the future because they have taught her how to form her opinion and have confidence to share it. Through the Youth Leaders Council program, Sarahi enjoys offering advice to others to strengthen the youth voices while giving back to the community. According to Sarahi, "Serving the community is important because it really gets you involved, you meet great people and really get to give back what the community provides to you." Through her various volunteer experiences, Sarahi also attributes being able to meet people who really support her, know what's good for her and help her become a better person.

As she graduates from high school this year, Sarahi wants to be remembered for her wisdom, ability to positively influence others and help them become better people. She wants youth to know that peers as well as adults have knowledge and experience to offer that may help them through a situation. "One main thing I've learned from being a part of YLC is that my voice matters! As a teen I thought I only had to listen to adults and do what they say. Through YLC, adults come to me for advice to make where we live a better and safe place," Sarahi said. She has learned that wisdom is a two-way street and that voices of all ages are important to developing a thriving and connected community.

Her favorite project through YLC has been the positive social norms campaign that is displayed at her school, as well as other middle and high schools in the valley. For Sarahi, "This is an interesting project because [the messages] talk about the myths vs. facts about alcohol among teenagers … that will help them not binge drink." The current campaign message states that 79 percent of Eagle County high school youth choose not to binge drink, according to the recent Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. Knowing the facts versus the myths helps to reduce the pressure teens feel to engage in unhealthy behaviors and helps them live a life of freedom. Teens don't have to hide from peers that don't participate in drinking or other behaviors because they learn through the messages that youth who choose to be substance free are the majority.

Sarahi feels she has been prepared by her school and community for the next phase of life and is ready to take the next step forward. She is excited for college and moving into her field of elementary school education. She is very passionate about young people and looks forward to teaching them in a caring and supportive environment. She also looks forward to teaching children the value of their voice. Being involved in the community and with young people is important to Sarahi and she encourages all other young people to get involved because there are many worthy organizations that are seeking helpers every day. These opportunities can also open up many new doors for pursuing goals, passions, finding what matters to you and receiving support from inspiring people.

Finding her voice has been invaluable for Sarahi and she wishes to leave her peers with the following advice: "There are a lot of people who follow dreams that others have created for them. They say they like what they're doing but it doesn't show. They follow someone else and end up hating what they're doing, fall into drugs or other things, and don't know how to do what they want to do. Trust yourself because you know what is right and you know what you want; show other people what you like to do and make sure they know what you don't like. Be yourself and be independent; follow your dreams your own way, doing what you like." These values have been instilled in Sarahi by her family and community and help her be successful in following her dreams.

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Mikayla Curtis is the resource development coordinator at the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services. The Youth Leaders Council is a program of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit organization that offers collaborative prevention programs and services to tackle three main areas that affect the development of teens and adolescent youth including: substance abuse prevention, emotional wellness and mental health promotion, and academic achievement. In addition to Youth Leaders Council, Eagle River Youth Coalition offers various levels of parenting education and trainings for community members. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.