Chicago (CBS) -- High school students have found their voices through Project Soapbox, which is part of the Mikva Challenge, a nonprofit that encourages civic engagement in young people.
"We give students a platform to let them talk about issues that they care about," said Kenneth Porter of the Mikva Challenge. "This is all about giving them the space to have some power and know that their voice matters."
Community members judge the first rounds in classrooms across the city. Eventually, finalists speak in front of city leaders and other students. Sometimes, they tell their own story and other times, it's someone else's.
Every time, there's a call to action and tough questions.
The competition helped finalist Rayvon Savary find his strength after a rough ride.
"When I was a sophomore, I broke my leg. I lost my older brother. It's a whole cycle of things that happened," Rayvon said.
He started taking too many of his prescription painkillers. His parents soon realized something was terribly wrong and stepped in.
"They definitely started monitoring everything," Rayvon said. "'Did you take them today? You're not abusing them, are you?' Asking me questions, starting conversations with me."
Through Project Soapbox, Rayvon's now having conversations with other young people.
"It definitely gave me the platform to open up, and it really let that story go because I was holding it into myself for so long," he said. "Once I finally let it all out, I felt so much relief."
Rayvon now knows it's opening up on that platform, starting that conversation, that's so important.
He is one of 15 students who will speak in the Soapbox Nation competition in Washington, D.C. in July. The judges will be national legislators and decision makers.
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