A cohort of teens involved in local circles.

Young people in the Detroit area, like many children in the city, do not always have the opportunity to explore issues that affect them directly – from mental health to financial independence, Detroit youth are sometimes at a disadvantage. One local organization is working to enable them to explore the world around them through research and information on social issues important to them and their community. This year, when topics related to mental health, well-being and financial issues plague adults, the nonprofit Local Circles is leading the way on how mental health and money affect Detroit youth.

Local Circles was founded by Nicole Eurek to allow Detroit youth to explore social issues using youth-led research. With 20 years of experience in youth development, Eurek has opened the door to allow young people to find their voice through not only research but also participation in services in their communities.

“We have adults who support young people so that they can choose an important social issue and study it. This is something that is really unique to local circles because most organizations already have a focus and young people come to them and learn that focus. And our young people can come to us with their ideas and study everything that is important to them, ”Yurek said.

The pandemic has put a heavy strain on mental health. While many have begun discussions about how the pandemic has affected adults, little is known about how it has affected children. Adolescents involved in local circles have discovered the truth about the mental health of young people.

“We are now studying mental health. Obviously this is a really big topic in the world right now. Young people come to us and say that “it affects young people in a way that is really different from what adults see”. We are emphasizing that, ”Yurek said. “We find that the lack of social interaction has had a really big impact on adolescents’ mental health.”

In addition to the pandemic, police brutality has increased trauma for black youth. With vivid images of police violence against African Americans on television and social media, young people see the police in a new light. As parents continue to talk about behavior when confronted with an officer, Detroit youth have found that fear often settles.

“They found that Detroit teenagers, at least half of Detroit teenagers, had talked to adults in their lives, where adults told them ways to interact with the police; to try to keep yourself safe. Young people are inevitably in contact with the police, ”Yurek said. “When that happens, all the lessons they’ve learned seem to fall out of their heads.”

Detroit youth through local circles have also expressed a need to learn about financial literacy. As part of a study, Detroit youth began disseminating information about financial literacy for teens.

“They told me that the adults told them they needed to know how to do things, but those adults didn’t show them how to do it. They were especially worried about money – when they turned 18, and they suddenly became financially responsible for themselves. We learned a lot about financial literacy, and the same group of young people turned around and set up a workshop to teach other teenagers about the lessons they are learning, ”Yurek said.

As part of their financial literacy, teens began to learn about real spending and how they can manage money independently and responsibly.

“What is a credit card, how do you deal with debt, how do you read a credit card statement, how do you open a bank account, how do you write a check? We just did some basic things for the budget. They were very worried about how we could do it ourselves, ”Yurek said.

As Detroit’s youth become adults, the student-led research they have been able to develop will not only help them in life, but will impact society as a whole. Although the organization helps to alleviate their natural curiosity, it is the students who lay the foundation for what they want to be in the future.

“Through research, our youth can create new knowledge. One of the things I tell them is that we are considering a research project that has a question that we can’t answer with a Google search, ”Eureka said.

Local Circles allows volunteers to participate in the action and help manage Detroit teens.

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