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Rep. Bush wants to hear from young people, so she set up a way to do so

Rep. Cori Bush speaks with local high school students during a listening session on various topics that impact their lives, such as gun violence and economic opportunity, on Monday, March 14, 2022, at Sumner High School in north St. Louis, Mo.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. Cori Bush speaks with students on Monday morning at Sumner High School in north city. It was the first listening session on various topics that impact students' lives, such as gun violence and economic opportunity,

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush is launching a new initiative to incorporate feedback from local, young people in her decision-making.

The program, “Congress in Your Classroom,” calls for forming a youth council and a smaller youth advisory board to meet regularly with Bush. It gives the students a chance to share their thoughts and feedback about issues facing young people.

“This is to not only inform me on what to do in D.C., but is also to help pull in what they want to see,” Bush told St. Louis Public Radio. “What can we do to help bring more resources and to help make change right here in St. Louis?”

Stephon Riggins, a junior at Sumner High School, speaks about gun violence on Monday, March 14, 2022, during a listening session with Rep. Cori Bush at Sumner High School in north St. Louis, Mo.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Stephon Riggins, a junior, speaks about gun violence on Monday during a listening session with Rep. Cori Bush at Sumner High School.

Bush, D-St. Louis County, announced the effort at a listening session for high school students at Sumner High School on Monday. Students from schools throughout Bush’s district attended the forum including Sumner, Riverview Gardens, Hazelwood East, Cardinal Ritter and Villa Duchesne.

Students spoke about mental health, especially in the Black community, and shared ways they’ve dealt with anxiety and stress at school.

Sumner junior Stephon Riggins said the conversation was especially needed for people who are afraid to speak out about these issues.

“People in general, in my community, we have a sense of feeling like nobody hears us, you know, not being heard or not having anybody to talk to about these problems that we have,” Riggins said. “We have that responsibility to speak out on these things for them to know that, look, you can talk, you can reach out.”

Bush said when she was young, she often felt like no one was listening or cared about issues that affected her.

“Me being the representative of the 1st District means I represent them and that this office is open to them,” Bush said. “They need to know that this office is not only open to adults. This office is open to them and to their families for their full needs as much as we can help with.”

The students at the forum also spoke about racism and gun violence. Bush asked them to raise their hands if they’ve lost someone to gun violence. All eight raised their hands.

“We have a voice and it should be heard and we can fix any inequity that we put our minds to,” said Precious Barry, a junior at Riverview Gardens High and North Technical High. “We have to stand up as youth because the system is really afraid of us, because we're sitting at this panel having a voice that's being heard.”

Bush’s new youth council will include up to two students from each high school in the 1st Congressional District that wants to participate. The group will have regular meetings with Bush. A smaller group, the Student Policy Advisory Board, will focus on legislation that is already on the table and policies the students think Bush’s office should work on.

As part of this initiative, Bush is also hoping to visit local schools to meet with students of all ages and help connect constituents with resources.

In October, Bush launched a similar effort called Congress in Your Neighborhood, which brought her constituent services to local libraries.

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke 

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.