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#DYLC14: Youth leaders to share their vision for Detroit on Wednesday

What began as a daydream session in a Grand Valley dorm room last December is becoming a reality on Wednesday.

The Detroit Youth Leadership Conference is the brainchild of Grand Valley sophomore and Detroit native Stepha’N Quicksey, who was completing his freshman year at Grand Valley at the end of 2013 and realized that despite getting connected with some worthy causes on his campus, he missed being involved with what was going on in his hometown of Detroit.

And so, instead of leaving school or moving home, Quicksey decided to add organizing a conference for young Detroit leaders to his studies.

Now, after months of planning, the conference is ready to launch. The Detroit Youth Leadership Conference will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday on the seventh floor or the Chase Building at 611 Woodward Ave.

More than 150 youth from across Detroit will join city leaders from the Mayor’s office, Detroit City Council, the Detroit Police Department and leading nonprofit organizations. The goal of the day is simple: to put youth voice on Detroit issues front and center.

“My big hope is that the youth will be able to articulate their vision for the city’s turnaround,” said Quicksey, who was a student advisor at the Foundation this summer. “And that adults will be able to receive and interpret that vision and work toward implementing the solutions and ideas of youth — and also include youth in decision-making process.”

Panel discussions include topics on education, neighborhood conditions and youth engagement. Adult leaders who will take part in panels include Dan Varner, executive director of Excellent Schools Detroit, Detroit City Councilman James Tate, Charlie Beckham, who runs the Mayor’s Department of Neighborhoods, Detroit Police Commander Todd Bettison, who heads the city’s neighborhood policing efforts, and Veronica Conforme, executive director of the Education Achievement Authority.

Shawn Blanchard, a motivational speaker, University of Michigan math instructor and founder of Networkingout, will serve as the day’s keynote speaker.

Quicksey said moderators will direct questions to youth first, and that adults will listen and then respond to what they hear.

Quicksey hopes the forum provides young leaders from across the city with a platform that has previously been sorely lacking when it comes to finding solutions to the city’s problems.

“Think that while adults have extensive experience, whether it is education or career-wise in community development, youth have a perspective they might not have,” Quicksey said. “Young people live in these neighborhoods and go to these schools and they’re not satisfied with what they see.

“They have visions for the future, and we need adults to take those visions seriously and consider how do youth want their neighborhoods and schools to look. It’s important for adults to hear that. And there’s no better way to have a future for youth that works than to engage those youth now.”

The Skillman Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Rock Ventures are the co-sponsors of the event. Registration is now closed for the event, but anyone can follow along with #DYLC14 on Twitter. Also, Quicksey said the group will follow up after the conference with next steps for all involved.

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