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Summit gives youths skills to make a difference

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.’

Summit out to make teens productive members of society

Summit out to make teens productive members of society

By Treshea N. Wade
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2001

Breaking a promise made to a teenager can result in the loss of trust. Lose a teenager’s trust and the results can be devastating to society.

A conference is in the works that is designed to ensure organizations help people keep their promises to youths.

Robert Morris College in Moon Township is holding its first Allegheny County Promise Summit March 9 and 10. The summit was created for school leaders of organizations on how they can better provide area youths with much needed services.

Daniel Horgan, a junior corporate communications major from Bethel Park, is the coordinator of the summit.

The recently appointed United States Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell named the college as one of the institutions in America’s Promise in 1997.

America’s Promise is a non-profit, national youth alliance created to connect youths with the support necessary to make the ‘five promises’ a daily reality in their lives.

Horgan explained that the five fundamental promises or commandments the alliance wants to ensure youths are provided with are:

-ongoing relationships with caring adults in their lives, including parents, mentors, tutors or coaches.

-safe places with structured activities during non-school hours.

-marketable skills through effective education.

-opportunities to give back through community service.

Horgan expects about 250 youths to attend the first day of the summit, which will feature Robert Pruitt II, a national motivational speaker from Maryland.

‘The first day the youth are going to have the opportunity to state their concerns, what they’re willing to give to the community, what do they see that’s missing,’ said Horgan.

Then, over 300 non-profit, business, civic and community leaders are expected to participate on the summit’s second day, which will feature Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. In the workshop sessions, Horgan said discussions will mostly focus on the concerns expressed by the youths on the previous day.

Horgan, who is also the president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, said the summit has already drawn the attention of various business, non-profit and education leaders from Allegheny, Washington and Beaver counties.

‘There will be so many opportunities to network to learn about different trends that occurring within youth services,’ Horgan said.

A buzz word Horgan said he is hearing among the different service providers looking for help is ‘collaboration.’

‘More than anything, people are interested in trying to eliminate a lot of duplication of services and how to collaborate and coordinate programs with one another. We want to make sure we establish those networks – that’s what we are all about,’ Horgan said.

Even while attending Bethel Park High School, Horgan was involved in coordinating volunteer programs for students. Now in college, he is the community service student coordinator for R-Move.

Horgan admitted he doesn’t know everything about service organizations. He credits the seven-member America’s Promise Advisory Board for helping him plan the summit. The board includes representatives from the University of Pittsburgh, Communities In Schools, Family Health Council and Highmark, he said.

‘We were trying to get connections from all over the region and have these representatives bring that different perspective to the table,’ Horgan said.

John Michalenko, dean of students at Robert Morris, said the things being taught at the summit just reinforce the college’s main mission.

‘Robert Morris College prides itself in preparing people the workforce. Part of that professional development preparation for their career is to build the civic and ethical responsibilities they have as professionals in giving back to society. That in itself is woven into the fabric of curriculum here,’ Michalenko said.

Mark Weinstein, director of public relations for the college, said he is excited about what Horgan has done with America’s Promise.

‘This program really is so much the model that we embrace here at Robert Morris – . This will make a big impact with youths and businesses in our region.’

Horgan said he hopes the Promise Summit doesn’t just become an event that motivates people to become involved in service.

‘That’s not what we’re trying to aim for,’ Horgan said. ‘I hope it’s just the beginning. We want to start establishing new relationships and really enhance them in the future.’

Horgan said through the America’s Promise he ultimately wants to break the county down to ‘regional perspectives.’

‘We want to have a real good idea in terms of what services are provided in the north, south, east and west regions. Maybe one region really exceeds in one of the five promises, but needs a little support in another. If we find that out, we can really start pulling from each other,’ Horgan said.

‘This is just the beginning – it’s not the end by any means,’ Horgan said.

There is no charge to attend the summit, but anyone interested must register. For more information about the summit, call (412) 262-8352 or visit the Robert Morris College web site at .

Treshea N. Wade can be reached at or (412) 306-4531.