What’s on the mind of young people?

Sustaining our Region

On May 29th, nine high school students gathered in Forterra’s Seattle office. The students represented five schools—a mixture of public, private, and parochial—and were ages 16-18. The reason for the meeting? The latest Dinner Table Talk, which brings together diverse groups of people to discuss the future of our region. The ideas from the conversation will be integrated into Forterra’s mission to ensure this place remains vibrant and livable in the future. The conversation will also serve as the starting point for a continued relationship between Forterra and our region’s youth.

This post was written by Forterra high school intern Lucy Halperin who organized the event.

As youth, we see the world from a slightly different angle than the rest of the population. We can be idealistic, but with that comes a certain unique boldness. Despite our ineptitude with email, we need to be a part of the conversation about our region.

—Lucy Halperin

Seattle high school students join Forterra President Gene Duvernoy in a conversation about how to sustain this region.

A word to the wise—if you want to get anyone born after 1995 to communicate with you, don’t use email. I mean, sure, if you spam our inboxes with messages, we’ll probably read a few. But if you actually want a response, let alone a response within two weeks, it’s probably time for a different tactic.

Despite being a member of Generation Z myself, I managed to learn this the hard way. I arrived at Forterra in late April, tasked with organizing, creating content for, and leading a “Dinner Table Talk” with high school students. Forterra had hosted 30+ conversations with various groups of people from the region, but mine was to be the first at which wine could not be served.

I emailed 19 students. Great, I thought. If most people can go, that should get me close to 15 people. Right? Wrong. I got a grand total of 6 responses, 3 said “No,” and 5 arrived after the RSVP deadline.

So, when the event date rolled around, I was worried that my yield at the conversation would be about the same as my yield over email. I was pleasantly surprised when all eight students who had told me they would be there (after my persistent emailing, texting, and Facebook messaging) showed up.

Our conversation was great—interesting ideas, unique perspectives and a range of topics. After dinner and an introduction by Gene Duvernoy, Forterra’s president, we discussed our region’s strengths, the trends that will impact the region and our vision for the region’s future. We brainstormed ways that youth can get involved in making our cities and rural lands better.

An activist doesn’t look at the river
and say it’s dirty.
An activist cleans the river.
Lev Klarnet, Seattle Academy, 12th grade

Our conversation often shifted to diversity, growth and policy. Students love the diversity of our region—both in the landscapes and in the population, but they expressed concern about how Seattle’s impending growth would impact this variety. We envisioned a city with less gentrification, less segregation across neighborhood lines and ongoing access to outdoor recreation. We felt we didn’t have access to the political process and want to see education surrounding how to initiate legislative change.

As youth, we see the world from a slightly different angle than the rest of the population. We can be idealistic, but with that comes a certain unique boldness. Despite our ineptitude with email, we need to be a part of the conversation about our region.

Listen to some of the participants in their own voices.

  • Lucy Halperin

    Lucy Halperin interned at Forterra in Spring 2015. She is a graduating senior at Seattle Academy who is headed to MIT in the fall.

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