Seventy newly arrived teens gathered at Montgomery College – Takoma Park Campus to talk with each other and trusted adults about their migration experiences and their dreams for a future in the United States. The Youth Leadership Summit was part of the County Executive’s commitment to welcome all newcomer children and families in Montgomery County and included students who are enrolled in the County’s high school-based Wellness Centers at Gaithersburg, Northwood, Watkins Mill and Wheaton High Schools.

The Summit combined music, raffles and honest talk about the difficulties of being separated from family and adjusting to a new culture and language. The majority of the participating youth were born in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras and have been in the country less than 3 years.

In small group circles, the teens began to connect with other students like them and with adults at school and in the community who are here to help.  At the end of the Summit, 93% said they felt welcomed to their new community in the US; 94% felt they learned something new about resources that are available to help them succeed in the US; and 92% said they felt more connected to other students like themselves.

The students also had a chance to learn about Montgomery College and a number of community organizations from staff at resource tables set up outside the auditorium. Another summit is being planned for spring, and many who participated volunteered to help with the planning.

Identity is honored to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services Positive Youth Development Program  to welcome and encourage the immigrant and asylum-seeking youth who come here to join relatives. Together, we can ensure that these young people have the right support at the right time to realize their dreams.

Students reported back on what they discussed in small group circles, in the auditorium of Montgomery College, Takoma Park.
Photo by Michael Walkden
Using circles, youth shared their experiences adjusting to life in the US and the challenges they have faced at school and in their new communities.
Photo by Tomas Alejo
Watkins Mill Wellness Center manager Lisette Dardon facilitates a circle dialogue where youth shared their dreams of succeeding in their new home as well as the challenges.
Photo by Tomas Alejo