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Jacksonville students organize town hall to discuss mental health, civil-police relations, education

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Talk show host Rob Nelson of Rob Nelson Live along with the Spear Our Youth Organization held a town hall meeting Thursday night at the New Life Church in Jacksonville. The discussion was about mental health, relationships with police and education.

The discussion was from the point of view of high school and college students who organized the event. The town hall followed a summer of nationwide protests over racial injustice following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

The students who organized the event wanted the adults to listen to their concerns to influence change.

“Deyona really impressed me because she was at our adult town hall meeting and said, ‘all you adults just argue with each other,’” Nelson said. “And she was like, Rob, can I do one for young people?”

“The time is now. We need to be heard as well,” said Deyona Burton, a Lee High School senior. “We need to be a part of the conversation to have a seat at the table.”

And that’s what started the ball rolling for Thursday night’s town hall.

Zachary Scott is also a Lee High School senior who helped organized the event. He says he wants young people to have an open dialog with police, and at the same time he believes young people should listen to the concerns of officers.

“Police have been labeled as the enemy now, but we don’t want it to feel like that,” Scott said. “We don’t want them to be our enemy.”

Another topic that came up was mental health. Joy Bowerman is a Sophomore at the University of North Florida who also helped organize the town hall.

She says mental health is a problem many young people are dealing with on a daily basis and that it’s not getting enough attention, especially mental health stigmas.

Solutions to some of the issues discussed included:

  • Providing mental health resources for officers
  • Requiring recruits participate in community service prior to being sworn in as officers
  • Increasing the number of African-American school administrators and teachers

Students who organized the event said they hope adults were listening carefully and taking notes.

In addition to students and their parents, the event was also attended by police, city and school officials.


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