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My Turn

by Dmae Lo Roberts


From The Asian Reporter, V31, #7 (July 5, 2021), pages 6 & 7.

Creative summer activities available to youth

I do not have kids, but I have a lot of friends who do. And itís been a rough year-and-a-half for them. While older people like me may have been more at ease with staying at home without in-person socializing, the isolation during the pandemic has been devastating for a lot of young people. Many parents and caregivers have undergone quite a bit of stress trying to work from home or having to go to work while children attended online classes amidst loneliness.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) report released on May 26, 2021 about youth mental health during the pandemic, parents with children between the ages of 5 and 12 said their kids showed elevated symptoms of depression (4.4%), anxiety (6.3%), and psychological stress (9.2%). The report also said 22.1% of young children "experienced overall worsened mental or emotional health."

LGBTQ+ youth may have fared even worse. A poll conducted in the fall of 2020 found that large shares of adolescent respondents between 13 and 17 years old had noted symptoms of anxiety (73%) or depression (67%) in the past two weeks and that 48% seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

In addition, the KFF report noted that the pandemic may disproportionately affect children of color. It found that children of color experienced higher rates of mental illness and were less likely to receive care or have access to school health services. The findings said Asian children may also be "uniquely at risk of adverse mental health outcomes due to anti-Asian racism."

Now that more adults have received the COVID-19 vaccine and summer is here, mental health for everyone ó but especially youth ó may improve with family activities and in-person interactions with others. Families are looking forward to outdoor activities, such as picnics, gatherings, or a road trip to the coast. Iíd like to recommend some options that are also educational.

The newly opened Japanese American Museum of Oregon (JAMO), previously known as the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, in Portlandís Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood has reopened for limited hours and is highlighting a new exhibit co-created by Linda Tamura, an Oregon author, educator, and historian, and Marsha Matthews, a former museum director at the Oregon Historical Society Museum. The display, called "Grace, Grit & Gaman: Japanese American Women through the Generations," is on view through December 31, 2021 and presents "multiple generations of Japanese-American women and the unique challenges they faced."

JAMO also features displays about immigration, the experiences of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II, the bravery and patriotism of members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion, and more. The museum is located at the Naito Center, which is on the first floor of the Old Town Loft building near the corner of N.W. Fourth Avenue and Flanders Street (411 N.W. Flanders Street, Portland, OR 97209). To learn more, or to buy advance tickets, call (503) 224-1458 or visit <www.oregonnikkei.org>.

A simple internet search reveals many summer camps that are available in the Portland metropolitan area. As a longtime theatre artist, I can personally attest to how theatre experiences helped me with my own depression during my middle-school and teen years. Two youth theatre companies in Portland have been offering free virtual events and classes for young people and in-person summer camps are now open.

The Northwest Childrenís Theater (NWCT), in partnership with the Summer Enrichment program at Portland Public Schools (PPS), is offering free summer camp opportunities at schools in north, northeast, and southeast Portland. Itís called Create-Your-Own Play! and itís free for PPS students. It sounds like a lot of fun ó playing theater games and creating a play from scratch while developing performance and writing skills that stimulate young peoplesí imaginations. The two-week day camps are held Monday through Friday from July 6 through August 13 and include free lunch. The program also hires 33 teen instructors who benefit from the mentorship of adult teaching artists. I still cherish the memorable experiences I had as a sixth-grade outdoor school camp counsellor. To learn more, visit <www.nwcts.org/create-your-own-play> (pre-registration is required). To explore other camp options available through the PPS Summer Enrichment program, visit <www.pps.net/summer2021>.

Another exciting offering is the Intergenerational Queer Audio Project for LGBTQ+ teens, which is presented by the Oregon Childrenís Theatre (OCT) and the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre Program. The unique podcast offers stories, reflections, poems, and songs from members of the diverse queer community ranging from age 14 to 80. Themes include generational relationships to family and ancestors; moments that feel like the eye of the hurricane; answers to the question, "what sustains us?"; and dreams for a future of justice and caring. The podcast is available on Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Amazon Music. To learn more, visit <www.octc.org/intergenerational-project>.

Other free online content that sparks the creativity of young people is offered by both OCT and NWCT. I urge readers to check them out. To all the parents and guardians reading this, hang in there. Your efforts are important and appreciated!

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Go to <www.asianreporter.com/completepaper.htm>!

Opinions expressed in this newspaper are those of the
authors and not necessarily those of this publication.

 

 

 

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