Editorial: Monday mix on teen forum; Hadley robotics; PVPA tour

  • Jacqui Perry, 15, of Northampton and Holyoke, stands with other members of Youth Rise Together at the beginning of a teen forum March 31 at Holyoke Community College.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 4/8/2018 9:38:15 PM

It was encouraging to see so many young people participating in a teen forum at Holyoke Community College on March 31 to brainstorm about wielding political influence.

The 2½-hour session, which was attended by about 50 people, most of them teens, was organized by Youth Rise Together. It was created over a year ago to empower youth to resist hate and create political and social change.

Cassidy McDonough, a junior at Northampton High School who is among the group’s organizers, said the forum was planned before the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people. That resulted in youth activism across the country, including school walkouts on March 14 and the March for Our Lives 10 days later.

“This event came out of the fact that most decisions and politics are dominated by adults,” McDonough said. “Often teens don’t have a voice in the discussion.”

Congressman James McGovern, of Worcester, and state Rep. Aaron Vega, of Holyoke, both Democrats, told the youths that it was a mixture of frustration and inspiration that got them involved in politics. Both politicians recommended that the youths focus on one issue about which they feel most passionate in an effort to make a difference.

Cherilyn Strader, a junior at Northampton High School and a founding member of Pioneer Valley Students for Gun Control that organized the March for Our Lives in Northampton, said she was at the forum to connect with other student activists. She praised McGovern for attending and listening to the concerns of young people.

McGovern offered this guidance: “Show up, speak up, act up. Don’t be afraid to be troublemakers if it’s good trouble you’re making.”

That’s sound advice to maintain momentum for teen activists who are keeping the nation’s attention focused on the need for effective gun-control measures.

* * *

Congratulations to the nine Hadley teens who are members of the Evolution Robotics team that will be among 128 competing in this year’s world championship in Detroit from April 25 to 28.

The youths and their robot have competed this school year in the technical challenge run by the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology organization, of Manchester, New Hampshire. It was established by Segway inventor Dean Kamen to inspire youths interested in science and technology.

The team was given instructions in September about the kind of robot they would need to stack boxes and move plastic figures, among other tasks required in a game called Relic Recovery. The specifications for the robot are that it be no larger than 18 inches wide, 18 inches long and 18 inches tall.

The Hadley team identified speed and agility as important to their robot’s success and planned accordingly in designing it on a computer and assembling parts. The robot cost between $3,000 and $5,000, with most of the money coming from business sponsorships and fundraisers. The team also has support from the University of Massachusetts College of Information and Computer Sciences.

We wish the Hadley youngsters, coach Bob Cullen and their robot well as they show off their technological skills in Detroit.

* * *

Music students from the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School and their teacher Frank Newton are in the midst of a five-day tour to Williamsburg, Virginia, thanks to impressive last-minute fundraising after the trip was nearly canceled last month.

The previous head of school George Simpson — who was fired Feb. 26 after being arrested on drug charges — had told Newton the $40,000 cost of the trip would be paid from the administration’s budget. However, interim head of school Brent Nielson informed Newton on March 20 that the school did not have the money.

When Newton gave his students the bad news, they reacted quickly by setting up an online Paypal account, soliciting local businesses for donations and using their own talents at fundraising shows. They soon raised about $25,000, which was enough to pay for the trip after some expenses were trimmed.

While in Williamsburg, Newton’s hometown, the students will teach and perform at Busch Gardens, schools and a library.

“The performance is kind of a Vegas-style music variety show,” Newton said. “The message we are sending is that through music we can overcome all things.”

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