Before Sweet Lisa’s Café opened one summer morning, several students and three city councilors, Crista Patrick, Kara Joy McKee, and Connie Dodson, gathered around a table to discuss the youth experience in Tulsa. The students were selected through Tulsa Changemakers and the Superintendent’s Student Cabinet to take part in the conversation. Student Life and Engagement Coordinator Anissia West guided the discussion with two questions:
- When thinking about living in Tulsa, what do you wish our leaders knew?
- What is the difference between current Tulsa and the Tulsa of your dreams?
In the hour-long meeting, the group talked about racial disparities, juvenile arrests, and over policing. All of these topics led to the heart of the conversation: finding more things for youth to do in Tulsa.
“We started talking about how to get more youth involved within the community and to bring down juvenile arrest rates,” said Tyla Webb, a rising senior at Central High School. “We talked about having more things for youth to do and to express those things through the school or partner with churches or parks.”
The student shared concerns about the safety of places they once enjoyed – one saying she didn’t even feel safe at the library. Tyla says she hopes to see a wider variety of opportunities, from STEM activities to art programs.
“There’s a lot of kids that do poetry, they sing, they dance, they express themselves in that way,” she said.
They also discussed ways to get the word out through social media and schools. Tyla said she appreciated the opportunity to speak directly to the councilors.
“It was a much-needed conversation, and they’re actually going to get things done,” she said. “I would a love to be a part of more meetings like this in the future.”
Anissia also hopes they can keep the conversation going and is considering coffee or cocoa chats with councilors and students in the future.