The Mental Health Association’s ListenUp conference, which happens every other year, gives a platform for students and young people to speak on the issues about which they’re passionate.
Presentations at ListenUp Tulsa 2013 came in many varieties. Topics included self-harm, the relationship between sports and academics, procrastination, abortion, bullying in schools, the challenges faced by young immigrants, and transitional housing for youth.
One of the presenters, who spoke on transitional housing, is a 20-year-old named Josh Smith, who’s homeless. His presentation included a video that he produced, about a typical weekend in the life of a young homeless person.
His powerful presentation earned him the ListenUp Conference’s top prize: a $500 startup grant designed to help implement solutions in the community.
The presentation by Scarlett Cortez and Ali Schellhorn on self-harm won the second prize grant of $250.
Also, the Bama Company provided two impromptu grants to presenters.
The first went to Madison Lee, who presented on bullying, and the second went as a matching grant to Josh Smith as well.
Isaac Rocha, with Bama, was a panelist during the event. The panel of business and community leaders listened to the day’s presenters, helped workshop the students’ proposals and voted on the best and most easily implementable projects.
“These were hard, challenging issues,” Rocha said. “It was great to see just the youth kind of engaged and excited to present to the community about these topics.”
Winner Josh Smith doesn’t yet have a specific plan for the grant money, but he does know he wants to spread more awareness about the challenges facing homeless youth: long wait lists to get into transitional housing and a lack of youth-oriented housing, to name a few.
He’d like to make more films, and maybe one day, take some film-related classes. Right now, his plan is to work on getting into a welding program at Tulsa Tech.
“And then I’m going to go back for culinary arts, and I’m going to find a school that does photography,” Smith said.