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Introducing the Student Lounge

By Allison Finder, Prevention Educator and Counselor

Hallways is excited to announce the Student Lounge, a space for young people to share their lived experiences through our newsletter. This new monthly feature aims to bring you a peek behind the curtain and into the lives of students who attend independent schools in New York City today.

Too often, adults internalize oversimplified beliefs about young people. It can be tempting to reduce them to the stereotypes that abound – spoiled, entitled, inattentive, apathetic, self-absorbed. And while there are nuances in the ways Generation Z is categorized and analyzed, the final take is often this: teens today are not only worse off than previous generations, but they don’t care about the dire circumstances they find themselves in, choosing instead to focus on frivolous matters like social media popularity and building their “personal brands”.

Yet in my work through Hallways’ Student Assistance Program (SAP),  I spend a significant amount of time around teenagers and have adopted an alternate narrative. I hear about both their sense of anxiety and feelings of empowerment. I meet young people who are scared and angry about the world they’ve inherited and yet still committed to making it a better place. I see teens who remain deeply sensitive and empathetic, even in a society that does not consistently value or reward those dispositions. I talk with young leaders committed to action, rather than validation seekers who rely on instant gratification or crave immediate reward. It would be an understatement to say that I am inspired and grateful to create community and engage in discourse with these students, to be invited and allowed to take a glimpse into their internal worlds and lived experiences. I truly believe today’s students have the immense potential (as well as the grit and the drive) needed to create lasting and impactful change that will positively alter the course of our society and the world at large.

And so I use a different shorthand for the adolescents I get to meet through my work with Hallways: self-reliant, equitable and empathetic, just, dedicated to honesty, fiercely loyal, globally connected, community minded.

Here at the Student Lounge, you will find authentic voices of this generation. More than a media amalgamation or a culmination of “best guesses” from adults, the Student Lounge will deliver first person accounts from the students that Hallways works with in the form of poetry, non-fiction, quotes, short stories, and other expressive mediums. Adolescents are writing their own narratives and are clear about what they want to say and the impact they intend to have. This column aims to provide space for their voices to be amplified.

In my work through Hallways, I get to see teens let their guards down, open up and speak hard truths, support their peers, ask for help, lean into discomfort for the sake of intimacy and vulnerability. And it’s critical that those perspectives are shared. Starting here.

If you’re a teen who wants to submit your writing to be featured in Student Lounge, or a school who wants to hear more about this opportunity for your students, please email [email protected].