Today teens come from across metro Atlanta to work together, share information, explore talents and express themselves by writing articles, creating art and designing layouts for the VOX teen newspaper and website.
“VOX was founded because there was a lack of opportunity for teen expression in our community – uncensored expression in particular,” says Meredith. “We listen to teens and engage them in the decision-making process so our programs reflect their needs.”
In 2005 The Community Foundation provided VOX with a $15,000 Competitive Grant to support their online “by-teens, for-teens” resource guide. The Teen Resource Guide ATL provides information on “websites, hotlines, help centers, clinics and trusted information for teens in times of need.” VOX teens created this project after holding a series of interactive workshops to identify problems within their community. They realized that access to information and finding a place to get help when dealing with difficult or sensitive issues was a prime concern for teens.
Teenresourceatl.org was launched in January 2007 and identifies resources in the community that can help teens deal with issues such as drugs and alcohol, sexuality and mental health. In the near future VOX’s hope is to add evaluations of “teen welcomeness” at some of these community agencies and organizations as well as a feedback mechanism for users of the guide.
“Teen voice is extremely important because we need to be able to speak up about things that can hurt us in the long run, “says Shabaaka Smalls, intern with VOX. “If we are going to be the ones to inherit this world, why not have some sort of say-so now about what is going to affect us in the future.”
Shabaaka joined VOX when he was a sophomore in high school and is a former editor of his school newspaper. Frustrated with what he felt was a lack of professionalism and censorship of ideas, Shabaaka left his position as editor in search of another outlet for his creative writing. Today you can find him at VOX’s offices on many Saturday afternoons keeping his peers on deadline and helping them stay on topic with their newspaper articles.
“People always ask us how we manage to get 30 to 40 teenagers in our office on a Saturday,” says Meredith. “It’s because what they’re doing is something they want to do – using their voice.”