Summit gives youths skills to make a difference
Treshea N. Wade
Published: Saturday, March 10, 2001,
More than 300 student leaders from high schools and youth groups across Allegheny County left Robert Morris College on Friday with extra pep in their step – eager to improve themselves in order to help others.
The Youth Promise Summit yesterday at the college’s Moon Township campus attracted teens from approximately 40 schools and youth groups.
The daylong summit was the inauguration of Allegheny County’s Community of Promise initiative, which was created in partnership with America’s Promise and the county Step Forward Committee.
The mission of the initiative is to build the character and competence of the county’s youths by providing them with five fundamental resources: caring adults, safe places, healthy starts, marketable skills and service opportunities.
Jere Le Householder and Joshua Yankovic, juniors at South Park High School, said attending the summit helped them realize they must take a proactive role in community service.
‘We can have so much more potential than we realize,’ Householder said. ‘I can’t wait for my school or community to jump up and do something for me. You just have to get moving yourself.’
Today, an Adult Promise Summit will occur, where service providers will listen to teens present the county’s first-ever ‘State of the Youth’ address.
The teen-agers participated in workshops after listening to motivational speaker Robert Pruitt II talk about the foundation of good leadership.
‘You must be willing to dump the excuses that you have made throughout your life,’ said Pruitt, founder of Men for Families, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. ‘You have to get out of your comfort zone. And everyday you should be asking yourself, ‘As I move forward what am I going to leave behind and where do I want to go?”
Julie Broz, 18, a senior at North Hills High School, said attending and helping plan the summit has forced her out of her ‘comfort zone.’
Broz said she used to be content staying in the background, but the conference has forced her to step into the spotlight, which is just what she needed to become more effective.
‘This has helped me a lot,’ said Broz, who plans on studying psychology at Duquesne University. ‘I have always wanted to help make a difference in at least one person’s life. This is definitely a start.’
With her newly found confidence, Broz conducted a peer pressure workshop at the summit.
Niki Brubach, 16, a junior at North Hills, said she found the workshops on typical teen problems, particularly apathy and stress, to be very helpful. The sessions helped the students heal any emotional wounds they had, Brubach said.
‘Sometimes we have a lot of stress in life that can lead to other things, such as depression,’ Brubach said. ‘We want to be able to help ourselves before we as leaders can help other people. You have to get yourself together before you can effectively help everyone else.’
Yankovic evoked the words of a former president who challenged another generation of Americans to give of themselves.
‘Ask not what your school can do for you, ask what you can do for your school and community,’ Yankovic said, paraphrasing the late John F. Kennedy.
Yankovic, whose South Park classmates are predominantly white, said mingling with more than 300 teens of various ethnic backgrounds helped him to step out of his ‘comfort zone.’
‘We’re so different, but everyone here has the same goals,’ he said. ‘We want to make a difference in our communities.’
Victor Rodgers, a senior at Clairton High School, said he was going to take what he learned at the summit back to Duquesne and Clairton, where he may organize a youth conference of his own.
‘Everyone has to make a choice on whether or not they want to step out of their comfort zone,’ said Rodgers, who when prompted by Pruitt rapped freestyle for about a minute on the pros and cons of living in a ‘comfort zone.’
In his keynote address, Pruitt told the youth leaders not to hoard the gift of giving they each held inside.
‘Honor your commitments. Don’t be late or miss engagements. And be the gift you are. Give yourselves away freely every chance you get,’ Pruitt said. ‘You are missing many opportunities if you have a gift to give that you are keeping to yourself. You can make a difference in someone’s life.’
Jessi Welsh, 16, said Pruitt’s words hit her hard.
‘It got me thinking. I need to get (moving) and do something. There are so many people out there who need someone to be there for them,’ said Welsh, a junior at West Mifflin Area High School. ‘I can help better someone else’s life. I need to give them my gift.’