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Youth Leadership Summit

Vaping, alcohol use, and social media bullying were some of the topics discussed by nearly 100 Portage County high school students during a Youth Leadership Summit organized by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County and Townhall II. The event was facilitated by Joe Markiewicz, a national youth trainer.

The students analyzed local youth survey data and prioritized the risk factors that lead to problem behavior in youth such as substance abuse, mental health issues, and bullying. The students shared their concerns for their own school districts with the group.

They learned about protective factors that help buffer youth from risk. Markiewicz shared a list of 40 research-based, positive experiences and qualities that influence young people’s development, helping them become caring, responsible, and productive adults. The list includes assets such as family support, a caring school climate, creative activities, faith community, and a positive view of personal future.

Over time, studies of more than 5 million young people consistently show that the more assets that young people have, the less likely they are to have problems with alcohol & drug use, violence, and sexual activity.

The students developed action plans to increase the protective factors for the youth in their community to take back to their school for implementation.

“As children age, it becomes more effective for them to be involved and lead drug prevention efforts,” said John Garrity, PhD, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board. “Youth-led prevention addresses the emotional and behavioral health of young adults. They are given a voice in planning, decision-making, implementation, and evaluation processes.”

High school students from Field, James A Garfield, Kent Roosevelt, Maplewood, Ravenna, Rootstown, Southeast, Streetsboro, and Windham participated.

“Our students left the Summit excited about their plans to get more students involved in the high school experience and create a more positive culture for everyone,” said Field High School teacher Beth Dyer. “We are hoping this includes more participation in clubs, after school activities, and volunteer opportunities.”

To help keep the students on track implementing their action plans, Townhall II will send a Youth-Led Prevention Specialist to meet with the students in their schools this spring.

“These students were absolutely amazing,” commented Sarah McCully, Prevention & Outreach Director at Townhall II. “Their enthusiasm made all of us in attendance feel so proud about the youth in this county.”

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