The 5th Annual Teen Summit, hosted by the Warren Hills Community Coalition and the Coalition for Healthy & Safe Communities – programs of the Family Guidance Center – took place on October 17 at Warren Hills Regional High School and drew 225 high school students from all corners of the county to learn leadership skills from Keith Hawkins of Real Inspiration, Inc.
Hawkins prepared a one-of-a kind conference for the Teen Summit. He did not use this event as an opportunity to lecture the students about drugs, drinking and bullying. Instead, he empowered them to change their perspectives and become leaders that have the ability prevent drug/alcohol use and bullying within their schools. The theme for the conference was “Make it ‘Better than Good”, which inspired students to create a culture of positivity in their lives, their schools and their community.
A culture of positivity is the antidote to the pressure and challenges young people face. Society has developed a series of norms that adolescents believe they have to adhere to. They feel pressured to fit in, which causes them to make poor decisions in the quest for acceptance.
“Everyone in your life is temporary,” Hawkins shared. “Don’t make dangerous, destructive or permanent decisions to make temporary people like you.”
Hawkins’ message challenged students to stop comparing themselves with others and learn how to identify with them, which is the first step in creating a culture that is “Better than Good”. Students learned that when they are judging one another – they are robbing themselves of genuine human relationships and preventing things from being “better than good”.
Summing up for many of the attendees, one student said that “Keith reminded me that I am not alone. When we stop comparing ourselves to others we create the opportunity to see who someone really is and recognize that we have shared life experiences.”
The 5th Annual Teen Summit was the second in a series of a leadership conferences that the Coalition has hosted for high school students throughout Warren County. The Coalition will be working with each high school that attended the conference over the next year to develop and implement an action plan to make their school “Better than Good”.
“Young people today know that drugs and alcohol are dangerous and do not need another adult telling them that,” said Liz Montalvo, Warren Hills Community Coalition Coordinator. “What they need instead is to be empowered to be ‘better’ so they don’t find themselves in situations where using drugs and alcohol seems like a good idea. With the help of Keith Hawkins, we hope to build on this message year after year to make our schools and our communities ‘Better than Good.'”
The Teen Summit was made possible through the Drug Free Communities grant and the support of the Warren County Department of Human Services. For more information about the Coalition and to learn how to become a member, call 908-223-1985 or visit their website at www.preventionconnectionsnj.org.