Bringing Real Talk to the Community.
Through our direct work with teens in the Library, Real Talk has become a resource supporting youth leadership in the community. Real Talk events provide a language and format for conducting similar youth-led conversations; a forum for planning youth-led community initiatives; and a platform for amplifying youth voice. Here are some of the projects we have worked on.
In the fall of 2018, we collaborated with Waltham arts organization Blueprint Projects to participate in the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, a national platform for greater participation in the arts and in civil society. For Freedoms invites communities across the country to engage in community dialogue by creating lawn signs finishing the prompts “Freedom of…”, “Freedom To…”, “Freedom From...”, or “Freedom For...”
Real Talk printed 100 double-sided lawn signs; spent a week in the Teen Room, in the high school cafeteria, at the high school library, in classes, and at other partner sites inviting teens to fill out the lawn signs; and then installed them on the front lawn of the Waltham Public Library during the month of October leading up to the November 6 midterm election.
Once installed, the lawn signs bore the unique statements of nearly 200 Waltham High School students, representing the hopes of Waltham’s teens for their lives, their communities, their country, and their world. And by installing them in the Library lawn, we invited the community to take time to reflect on teens’ thoughts and feelings, to consider the world teens will inherit, and to familiarize themselves with the world teens intend to create.
We plan on repeating this each fall and have already begun recruiting other libraries to join us in this project (lawn signs get cheaper the more you buy!). If you are interested in joining this initiative, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project was made possible with the help of the Blueprint Projects, For Freedoms, the Waltham Boys & Girls Club, the Waltham Partnership for Youth, and Waltham Public Schools.
Protest Planning & Reflection
In 2017, student activists at Waltham High School held a sit-in protest against racism. They brought in speakers for workshops and held discussions on the topic. Real Talk invited attendees to come to the Teen Room that evening to discuss. In 2018 when students across the country called for action to prevent future school shootings by planning walkouts from their schools in coordination with the March for Our Lives, Real Talk supported teen leaders as they planned their walkout. In coordination with the Waltham High School administration, we connected teens with a Brandeis student with experience in direct action, gave teens a forum to discuss how to make their walkout effective and safe, and provided signs and markers for students who wanted to make protest signs.
High School Workshops
In 2019, Waltham High School held its third annual Mayoral Youth Summit—a day of workshops, inspiration, and community building for 300 Waltham High School students. Real Talk participated by running workshops on the difference between assimilation, acculturation, appropriation, and appreciation with groups of youth during the day. Based on the positive response, we are working with Waltham High School to offer customized workshops for classes during the school day.
All Waltham High School Sophomores are required to take an independent study course called Sophomore Composition. In this course students research a topic of interest to them and at the end of the year produce some kind of final culminating project. Several students have taken inspiration from Real Talk to produce their own interactive dialogue with their peers on their topic. The Teen Room has hosted these events and assisted in their preparation.