Summit to focus on ‘listening’ to Malibu’s youth

The Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families is hosting the forum, “Power of Possibility Leadership Summit: Growing up in Malibu-A World Café Conversation,” for Malibu’s youth on April 30. The goal of the summit is to engage the youth of Malibu in an ongoing conversation and to “craft new ways to hear what our youth are saying,” and to involve them in the future of their community, MFYF founding board member Laure Stern said.

The City of Malibu and the Malibu Bay Co., owned by local resident Jerry Perenchio, have partnered with MFYF to fund the summit, which will take place at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue.

A civic group organized after the Columbine High School shootings 10 years ago, MFYF’s goal is to provide unifying support services for youth and families in greater Malibu. Stern said this year’s summit has similar goals for serving Malibu’s community, but the format to get there is different.

“This year, we’re going with a new setup that follows the World Café principals,” Stern said in an interview with The Malibu Times, explaining that the idea is to engage youth in ongoing conversation and to find new ways to listen to them. “With traditional summit formats, we always returned to the same negative issues. The idea here is that youth have so much to give the community, but they’re looked at as the problem, not part of a solution.”

Stern’s efforts to engage Malibu’s young people in community organizing has been at the forefront since MFYF was launched, with the establishment of the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu and its teen center, called The Club, being its signature achievement. The Club’s Angels at Risk program strives to steer teens away from drugs, and its bilingual counseling office has grown out of past community summits.

This month’s Power of Possibility Leadership Summit invites everyone in greater Malibu-parents, teachers and, most especially, students-to attend the forum. Guest speakers will include community leaders and educators, former Malibu High School students and Ken Homer, a certified Integral Coaching consultant who leads international workshops and conferences on results-oriented group dialogue.

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“The World Café format touches [on] something we all instinctively remember, which is our history of communal gatherings to talk,” Homer said. “This process is being used in corporate boardrooms, for new product launches and with NGOs. I read about a group in Bali working to address child sex slavery and they were able to bring perpetrators to the table to talk about how they could help better the community. It’s a process that works.

“With the World Café, you’re not talked at. You have a conversation and explore questions about what kind of future you want for your community. It’s about listening.”

That listening involves a more positive approach, Stern said.

“Our civic conversation used to be a cynical, been there, done that attitude and kids were used to hearing very negative things about them,” Stern said. “Once everyone starts thinking about what our youth need instead of just trying to solve problems, new answers will come up.”

Two Malibu youth representatives are taking part in the summit. Natalie Alvarado is a senior at Malibu High and was the Boys and Girls Club 2008 Youth of the Year. Skylar Peak is a 2002 graduate of Malibu High.

They spoke of the “disconnection” between Malibu’s youth and an older generation.

“I think one of our biggest problems is the lack of communication between kids and adults,” Alvarado said. “This format really allows you to talk more openly. You feel more comfortable. So I think the high school kids will respond well.”

Peak said, “Normally, it’s tough to get a 15-year-old to open up. This should turn on some light bulbs and engage everyone. It sure will give the foundation a better idea of what youth here wants.”

Stern has vested interest in seeing the summit generate new leadership. She is stepping down from the MFYF board in September. Her husband, Daniel Stern, has taken the reins as board president.

“It’s been 10 years and it’s time,” she said. “Enforcing the unifying aspect of our mission statement is what interests me now and if this summit is a step toward that, I’ll feel like a million bucks.”

The Power of Possibility Leadership Summit takes place April 30, 6 p.m.-9 p.m., and is open to the community. Reservations can be made online at www.mfyf.org by April 22. More information can be obtained by calling 310.457.1400.

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