“Take Us to Happier Places”

Date of Session: May 20, 2020

During one of the darkest periods of the covid-19 crisis, youth in Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach, two hard-hit areas of Palm Beach County (itself among of the hardest hit in Florida), reviewed stories from residents and reflected on their experiences.

Local Youth Trained to Collect Stories

Youth were trained by Healthier Neighbors to collect stories using SenseMaker. The goal was to create a youth data team that would use the tool at events and report on neighborhood data to the steering committee. Youth from the Teen Outreach Prevention Program, Inspire Youth, Inner City Innovators, and the City of West Palm Beach Empowerment Center all sent youth to the training.

When the coronavirus hit, Erin Fields, the Healthier Neighbors Americorps Vista, worked with a few youth who were able to commit to data collection using the new prompt. Palm Health Foundation provided funds, and youth received financial incentives.

Two youth spent many days collecting stories at the Youth Empowerment Center in downtown West Palm Beach. They asked residents passing by to share their story.

Youth from Teen Outreach Prevention Program and the Youth Empowerment Center participated in the sensemaking session on May 20.

Youth Insights

  • Many of the latest stories from local residents described losing jobs or hours getting cut.
  • Many stories described family illness or knowing someone who was sick. One shared the death of a spouse.
  • Youth noted that many residents refused to submit a story and did not want to tell anyone about their struggles. They agreed this was a common attitude.
  • Youth collecting stories in an area coping with homelessness, alcoholism, and mental illness commented that some were not really concerned about the coronavirus.
  • When discussing what the youth could do to see a shift in the mood of the stories, one responded, “Take us to happier places. No really!” Youth suggested that they might collect stories from one of the schools where people received meals.