Raven Sevilleja peer mentor for the REACH program and a founder of Students Offering Support (SOS), recently returned from giving a presentation to a group of Federal staff members. With the encouragement and help support from Anne Parish, REACH Program Coordinator she filled out an application to participate in Listening Session to Identify How to Support Youth Decision Making.

The Cloquet High School senior sent it off and promptly forgot about it until they received an email several months later saying she had been accepted.

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"I was so excited," Sevilleja said.

Parish was her supportive adult through the process and helped guide her as well as accompany her out east.

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs and the American Institutes for Research funded the listening session. The group works to bring young people together to help federal policy makers to better understand how youth and young adults make decisions.

Sevilleja said the youth came from all over the United States and from a variety of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Sevilleja is half Native American and half Filipino. The majority of students at her school are of European descent.

The event was focused on discussions of concerns and decisions youth make everyday.

The teens separated into smaller groups and had 2 ½ hours to create a presentation. Sevillejas group decided on the identity of young people. They looked at areas including educational studies offered in schools, diversity and safe spaces for teens to be able to express their feelings freely without fears of being teased or rejected. Some of the youth discussed feelings of isolation from being a minority culture in their community.

According to Parish, the staff was impressed with the maturity of the youth and how well they did with the presentations.

According to Parish, the staff said: "We are taking what the youth said seriously and we will keep you informed about our follow up activities and actions. We are already thinking about ways to add content to youth.gov for families, among other things."

Sevilleja said one of the biggest things she learned from her visit is that even though the teens came from different backgrounds and experiences, they also had many similarities.

One change Sevilleja would like to see in her school is more diverse offerings during school and in after-school, such as teaching Native American culture, including language, law and history.