GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. — More than 800 teenagers from 100 Colorado schools gathered at Cherry Creek High School on Saturday for the 30th Colorado Youth Diversity Conference.
The conference gives teens a chance to discuss issues normally off-limits in the classroom.
“It’s really important for students to have an outlet where they can find solidarity with others and also be exposed to things that they wouldn't have otherwise,” said Reem Saeed, co-chair of the Youth Celebrate Diversity (YCD) Colorado student board, which helped organize the event.
The conference provides an open forum through 46 workshops, where students can break into groups and discuss hot-button issues, from religion and politics to sexual orientation and race.
“You often feel like you're the only person going through the same problem,” said Estub Worku, who also serves as co-chair of the YCD Colorado student board. “When you find someone that you can relate to it kind of makes it better knowing that you're not alone in that situation.”
Worku, who is now 18 years old, said the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 inspired her to get involved.
“Especially being you know a minor back then I just felt like there was not a lot that I could do,” said Worku. “I wanted to branch out and see what I can do as a student and I found YCD and it’s just helped me express my concerns and meet people who have the same passions, who want to do better.”
At the conference, students can come up with solutions to problems affecting their lives and communities.
The co-chairs told us they hope students walk away feeling empowered.
“I hope students will be able to understand the intersectionality of issues and understand that everything is interconnected, and to be able to hopefully have some sort of spark within them to actually make change within their own schools and communities,” said Saeed.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement welcoming the participants to the conference.
“I hope the important discussions you have today will empower each of you to go back to your communities and schools and help those around you grow,” Polis’ statement read. “I’m confident that each of you will become stronger leaders in your communities, helping to create a Colorado where diversity is celebrated and social issues are confronted head-on in the unique communities that make up our wonderful state.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also proclaimed January 28 as “Colorado Youth Diversity Conference Day” in the city and county.
Lachi, an award-winning singer-songwriter, delivered a keynote address to the students at the beginning of the conference.
Lachi, who is legally blind, advocates for disability inclusion and encouraged students to continue fighting for the change they want to see.