Teen Leadership Summit Tackles Being ‘Better than Good’

Pictured are some of the attendees and moderators of the 4th Annual Teen Summit, held last month. Standing are Terylynn Turdo, Stephani Colao , Keith Hawkins, Mickala Schuler, Matt Bronico, Liz Montalvo, Garrett Piell, Dan Jacobs, and Nick Verkuilen. In Front are Melanie Clark, Traci Keiffer, John Novack, Sean Vandervelden, Sarah Casterline, Ben Rose, Olivia Wyckoff, and Dyomi Emery.

Students from across the county attended the 4th Annual Teen Summit at North Warren Regional High School last month.

Hosted by Warren Hills Community Coalition and Coalition for Healthy & Safe Communities, both programs of the Family Guidance Center of Warren County, 150 high school students from all corners of the county attended the leadership event.

Keith Hawkins, of Real Inspiration, Inc., prepared a one-of-a kind conference for the summit. Avoiding traditional lectures against drugs, drinking, and bullying, Hawkins instead found new ways to help attendees change their perspectives, with the goal that they become leaders who can prevent drug and alcohol use, and bullying.

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 today, according to Hawkins.  Society has developed a series of norms that adolescents believe they have to adhere to.  They feel pressured to fit in with these norms, 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 to others.  Students learned that when they are judging one another, they are robbing themselves of genuine human relationships.

“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,” one student said.

The Teen Summit was the first in a series of a leadership conferences that the Coalition will be hosting for high school students throughout Warren County.

“Young people today know that drugs and alcohol are dangerous, and do not need another adult telling them that.  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,” said Liz Montalvo, from the Coaltion. ”With the help of Keith Hawkins, we hope to build on this message year after year to create a healthy and safe community for young adults to grow and develop.”

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.preventionconnections.org.

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