July 22, 2004 – This weekend about 80 V.I. teen-agers will participate in an intensive workshop where they will be challenged to explore their feelings and impressions on the pitfalls of youth and ways of achieving while living a healthful lifestyle.
The 4th annual Teen Summit hosted by the St. Croix Unity Coalition will begin Friday evening and conclude Sunday afternoon. The young people from throughut the territory will stay in University of the Virgin Islands dormitories and will attend a series of workshops and breakout sessions. The event is intended to reinforce positive living, healthy relationships and conflict resolution; and to give the teens an opportunity to express freely their fears, feelings and concerns.
Project coordinator Joyce Brown has great expectations for the event. "The program is designed to instill in the teens the idea that they can go as far as they want to in life, as they delve deep into their personalities and realize that they have a choice about what happens to them and their bodies," she said.
Brown has been hosting regular Saturday sessions with teens since coming on board with the Unity Coalition in February. The gatherings have given the young people an opportunity to interact with representatives of various organizations, she said. The sessions have included discussions on character, respect, puberty and family relationships. The teens also have participated in social activities such as a beach outing and bowling.
Parental involvement is key to the success of the summit, Brown said, and parents have been stepping up to the plate. "Putting this event together has been a community effort at the deepest level," she said, "and parents have been very involved. It's been a great experience."
In order for youths to be accepted for the summit, their parents had to sign a commitment that they would attend the entire workshop and participate in the activities. Parents also are serving as volunteer "caregivers," staying overnight and chaperoning the teens at UVI.
Teens themselves also have played a big part in putting together the event, according to Brown. "It's youth-driven," she said. "I was just directing traffic."
Brown's assistant is Jelani Newton, 20, a junior pre-law student at the University of Pennsylvania. He is very meticulous," she said. "Without him I don't know if I could have made it through." Newton assisted with every phase of the planning "conducting parent and teen registration sessions, contacting sponsors and generally keeping every thing organized," she said.
The summit will feature workshops, one-on-one and group sessions, interactive exercises and culturally sensitive social activities. Workshop topics include "Sexual Assault and Healthy Relationships," "Drug Education," "HIV/AIDS and Your Body," "Youth and Character," "Conflict Resolution" and "The Harmful Effects of Gossip."
There also will be a rap session with Solutions Improvisation, roundtable discussions and games and other socialization activities.
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