At the Teen Forum, moderator Mojo, a 95.5-FM radio personality, listens to a panelist. The panel included students Jonathon Moffett, Dalesia Malcolm, Chris Hamama, Carson Biederman, Egerton Abulu and Areeba Maysun, and Father Pierre Konja, Our Lady of Chaldeans Catholic Cathedral, Southfield; Rabbi Jen Lader, Temple Israel, West Bloomfield; and Rev. D. Alexander Bullock, Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, Detroit.
At the Teen Forum, moderator Mojo, a 95.5-FM radio personality, listens to a panelist. The panel included students Jonathon Moffett, Dalesia Malcolm, Chris Hamama, Carson Biederman, Egerton Abulu and Areeba Maysun, and Father Pierre Konja, Our Lady of Chaldeans Catholic Cathedral, Southfield; Rabbi Jen Lader, Temple Israel, West Bloomfield; and Rev. D. Alexander Bullock, Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, Detroit.

Teen Forum yields understanding through open, honest dialogue.

Carson Biederman Special To The Jewish News
Carson Biederman
Special To The Jewish News

The Teen Forum between all three Walled Lake Schools has been going on for many years now, and I feel that it was one of the most inspiring, influential and important school events I have ever participated in.

The March 6 forum consisted of a panel, containing both students and community leaders of all genders, races, religions and backgrounds. I was fortunate to be a panelist.

Questions about cultural appropriation, racial prejudice, religion and even gun control were all brought up. Audience members got to ask questions, voice their opinions and contribute to the wonderful conversations the panel opened up about. The best part was that we could all come together and speak peacefully about the topics that can be so difficult to discuss.

Especially in high school, I am sad to say, I think teens are quick to judge each other based on their differences. People spoke about being profiled based on their appearance, judgments others make about their culture and even the way they are treated by teachers.

At the surface, all these issues seemed so different. When dissected by the panelists, however, it became clear that each person on stage had one commonality — we all had been judged, rejected or discriminated against for who we were. Not who we were on a basic level, but our roots. The traits that we did not choose, but the ones that were proudly passed down to us from generations before.

These were issues we panelists (students and clergy) were open to talk about, which was extremely eye-opening for not only the audience, but also for me. I think teens want to know about those who are different but are too afraid to ask. This panel showed that even the hard questions, when asked politely and in a respectful manner, are proudly answered by those who are passionate about the topics at hand.

This is a program I hope will continue for years to come. The passion, drive and need for change described by the panelists and even the audience members were truly inspiring. The religious leaders reminded us that they know we are the future and are willing to help and support us in the choices we make to have our voices heard.

We as students and as an entire community want to see less discrimination and more celebration of who we are because we are all more similar than we are different.

Carson Biederman of West Bloomfield is a senior at Walled Lake Central. The Teen Forum, an annual event of Walled Lake Schools, is part of the Chaldean News and Jewish News Building Community Initiative.