Editor's note: To welcome the new year, and to show the good and promise that we can expect from upcoming generations, Connecticut Family magazine has launched a yearlong feature which highlights the leadership and inspiring activities of area young people.
This series recognizes the community builders of tomorrow: – students who see an outstanding need and work to meet it; who mentor and nurture others; who show leadership in inclusion, compassion, and advocacy; and who work diligently (and often quietly) to further a cherished cause. Each day, and all around us, young people are motivated and working to better this world: to help, to heal, to share, to acknowledge, to grow.
In collaboration with Dominion Energy – Millstone, New London county educators are asked to nominate young people deserving of recognition. The first three profiles appear in this issue; we look forward to publishing many more.
If you know a young person making a difference in our world, please (with parent or guardian permission) send a brief write-up detailing their accomplishments, school, grade and contact information to Managing Editor Faye Parenteau, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions are welcome at 860-701-4375.
Dominick Turrell Lorenzo Brown-Burrell is a Grade 8 student at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in New London. In nominating Dominick for recognition, Principal Alison Burdick shared that Dominick believes it is important to remember that “the struggle in your life today is just strength building up for tomorrow.” Very profound thoughts for this energetic thirteen-year-old!
Dominick has been active in an organization called Hearing Youth Voices, and is one of the youngest members in a group of mostly high school and college students. Dominick is enthusiastic about his participation in Hearing Youth Voices, and he shares the reasons why.
CF: What is Hearing Youth Voices, and what does the organization do?
DB: “It’s a nonprofit group which helps out the community and kids that have multiple problems in school. We come to help out the children, and we have an after-school program so they can figure out what’s going on at school, and what they need to fix to make the [school] environment a better place. We have a big giant program after school every Tuesday and Monday, and we have them come down and talk about what’s going on in school and what they don’t like.”
CF: What do you do to participate?
DB: “I work with basically the manager, her name is Laura Burfoot. She’s actually the creator of Hearing Youth Voices. We really have a big change in the community because we do so many benefit things—we go to rallies and demonstrations and stuff. That way, we can make sure that not just New London is doing good, but Connecticut altogether is doing good.”
CF: How did you decide to get involved in Hearing Youth Voices?
DB: “My brother worked there and I went to say hi to him, then once I got there, I met Laura and she was talking to me about what we need to do to make everybody’s day better. I came back many times and eventually joined and made myself more relevant with them.”
CF: How has this helped you personally?
DB: “My self-esteem has really amped up a lot because I feel that now I’m at Hearing Youth Voices, it gives me another place to express what I’m feeling and trying to help out with what’s going on at home, around school, and around the whole environment.”
CF: How, specifically?
DB: “I used to be a little bit more disrespectful, but not any more since Hearing Youth Voices because I feel that they’ve taught me I can be myself, but I don’t have to say it in a certain way. I mean, it helps me at home because now I know how to say things without hurting people, without making it seem the wrong way. If I hadn’t gone to Hearing Youth Voices, this wouldn’t have happened.”
CF: Your mother says you love acting.
DB: [Big smile.] “Ever since I was a kid, I would watch TV and first I wanted to be a choreographer. Then I saw Michael Jackson and got excited and wanted to start dancing. Then I saw him in movies and I wanted to do that, too. So I heard about Writer's Block [Ink], which is a program for summer and you can go there and dance and do arts and crafts. At the end of the program we do a giant production of plays. We make them ourselves.”
CF: Do you get to act in these plays?
DB: [Another big smile.] “Oh yeah. I’ve only been there two years and I’ve got Best Actor twice. I really love acting because it’s a place where I can be me and dance and express how I feel. Everyone has a voice, but not everybody chooses to use it, so I’m giving them their voice to accept and be themselves.”
CF: What are the plays about?
DB: “They are always about a problem that’s actually going on now. Last year, we had domestic violence. This year, it was about mass incarceration. Everybody in the program writes plays, even if they don’t act. When Writer's Block gives us the topic, we all come together and make decisions in a giant group. We can all be a part of it as long as we all work together.”
Hearing Youth Voices is a youth-led social justice organization founded by New London native Laura Burfoot. Hearing Youth Voices advocates for healthier communities by addressing systemic problems. It was the 2016 winner of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s first-ever $50K Youth Organizing Award. For more information on training, research, or how to get involved, visit hearingyouthvoices.com.
Writer's Block Ink encourages youth to use writing and performance as tools to address personal and social challenges. For details, visit writersblockink.org.