Youth Summit puts Teens and Education in the Spotlight


Local high school students get a “day off” class to be “turned on” to learning

Friday, Sept. 26, in Memorial Fieldhouse on campus

The 2014 Youth Summit at University of Puget Sound will offer something unusual to the young people of Pierce County this time around—the minds and ears of local “elders.” In the day-long whirl of educational youth activities—that are part of the 2014 Race & Pedagogy National Conference—hundreds of high school students will share experiences with Tacoma community leaders who were “in the trenches” during some of America’s most racially divided times. The Youth Summit on Friday, Sept. 26 (8:30 a.m.–3:45 p.m.), in Memorial Fieldhouse on campus, aims to inspire Tacoma youth to take responsibility for their own education and their own futures.



Tacoma Public Schools, local youth groups, and school districts from around Puget Sound will bus in more than 500 teenagers and young adults, many of whom will take the day off from class to participate in the Youth Summit. The summit will feature speakers, video, reflective conversation and writing, performances, poetry, and art and music workshops. Young individuals not affiliated with a participating school are also invited to register for the event, as below.

For conference registration and schedule
To register for the Youth Summit



“We want to make visible and revisit the central and essential role of education in the midst of our changing society,” said Dexter Gordon, director of the college’s Race & Pedagogy Initiative, which organized the conference. “We want to put the spotlight on questions that are not often raised, because the outcomes of inequity are enduring, and it is troubling that students of color are lagging on the educational ladder. We expect the students who come to reflect on issues related to rights and freedoms, and to consider their role in transforming systems of inequality and injustice.”


Some of the highlights of the day will include:

  • Fab-5: Tacoma’s own Fab-5 artists, known for their teaching of urban arts including breakdancing, DJing, and graffiti art, will involve the students in an interactive project called “Framing Voices,” which will help identify and acknowledge the voices of students in the room.
  • MyKaila Young: Young, a Palmer Scholar and Gates Millennium Scholar, will tell her story about how she took control of her life when she was homeless in Tacoma and diagnosed with cancer. Young persisted in her dream and went on to complete her studies at Lincoln High School, winning a place as a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Poets-in-Residence: The conference’s poets-in-residence Luke Smiraldo, Elijah Muied, Necashaw Montgomery, and Giovanni Perez will present works they created by following the process of organizing the Race & Pedagogy National Conference, including contributions by the Race & Pedagogy Initiative Community Partners.
  • Dance:  University of Puget Sound’s student-run Repertory Dance Group will lead the Youth Summit students in a dance performance. The attendees will be able to learn the steps in advance from a YouTube video.
  • Writing Exercise and Conversation with Tacoma Elders:  Youth Summit participants will engage in face-to-face conversations with Tacoma’s veteran community leaders, who will share their own personal struggles for social justice. Students will then be led in writing exercises in which they will write about how these local stories connect to national struggles such as the Brown v. Board of Education 1954 Supreme Court case ending segregation in public education. Ultimately, students will write about how local and national stories connect to their own family stories.
  • Yazmin Monet Watkins:  Actress, author, and performance artist Yazmin Monet Watkins will perform spoken word poetry.
  • Youth Workshop:  Some students leaders from the region will stay on after many of the high school students depart at 2 p.m. They will work in classrooms with Puget Sound professors and staff, and with visiting artists, writers, musicians, poets, and others at exercises that pursue the conference theme.
The Youth Summit is part of a national conference featuring keynote speakers Henry Louis Gates Jr., Angela Davis, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, and Winona LaDuke, in addition to three days of sessions, workshops, and art exhibits and performances.



The 2014 Race and Pedagogy Conference is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Puget Sound Energy, Russell Investments, State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tacoma Arts Commission, University of Puget Sound, Wells Fargo, and an anonymous local foundation donor.