Grand Rapids youth to share COVID-19 experiences with community leaders

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Grand Rapids youth will give testimony about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their mental health now and into the future at the two-hour event. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

Children in Grand Rapids will share their COVID-19 experiences with elected officials and other leaders at KidSpeak 2021: Beyond the Virus, at 10 a.m. Friday.

The annual youth forum will be hosted by the Grand Rapids Mayor’s Youth Council and Our Community’s Children in partnership with Michigan’s Children, city of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Children will give testimony about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their mental health now and into the future at the two-hour event.

“As teenagers and pre-teens in the COVID-19 era, we have spent more time consuming, possibly harmful, media without the willpower or support to think critically about things being portrayed,” said Taylor Pierce-James, a ninth-grade student at City High Middle School and KidSpeak 2021 participant. “These ideals are bad for our mental health, which subsequently affects our physical health.”

“While this is the first time in 20 years that KidSpeak will be virtual, this year’s subject is one of the most important topics we’ve embraced,” said Shannon L. Harris, interim executive director of Our Community’s Children. “We have nearly 20 courageous young people in elementary through high school who will give testimony and offer decision-makers recommendations on ways they should support.”

Harris said speakers also will have the opportunity to speak with mental and physical health professionals immediately following the event.

The public can watch the forum on the city’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Confirmed listening panelists include:

  • State Rep. Rachel Hood, Michigan House of Representatives
  • Liz Balck, district director, Office of State Senator Winnie Brinks
  • County Commissioner Carol Hennessy, Kent County District 14
  • Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, city of Grand Rapids
  • 1st Ward City Commissioner Kurt Reppart, city of Grand Rapids
  • 2nd Ward City Commissioner Milinda Ysasi, city of Grand Rapids
  • 3rd City Commissioner Senita Lenear, city of Grand Rapids
  • 3rd City Commissioner Nathaniel Moody, city of Grand Rapids
  • Katherine Downes Lewis, trustee and secretary, GRPS Board of Education
  • Kristian Grant, trustee, GRPS Board of Education
  • Raynard Ross, trustee, GRPS Board of Education
  • Dr. Lisa Lowery, section chief of adolescent and young adolescent medicine, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
  • TahLeekah Partee, clinical therapist, Pine Rest
  • John Helmholdt, executive director of communications and external affairs, Grand Rapids Public Schools

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