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Cincinnati Youth Leaders Shine at Summit

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am part of the Leadership Cincinnati program and my team’s project was the 2014 Youth Summit. This free day-long event was a collaboration among the Youth Commission of Cincinnati (YCC), the Cincinnati Police Department, Leadership Cincinnati—Class 37, and championed by Councilwoman Yvette Simpson.

The second annual youth summit drew some 450 middle- and high-school students from all over the Cincinnati area. Through speakers, workshops, and panels, the summit engaged students in a unique experience. For one thing, most had probably never attended a conference before. For another, it was entirely youth driven—planned and co-led by youth leaders in the community.

Katie is one such youth leader. A sophomore at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, Katie spent the past nine months helping plan the summit. “This is a special day,” said Katie. “We are leading this summit with the goal of encouraging young people to make a difference for ourselves—to think and act differently as a result of our experience today.”

The day began with welcomes from the University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono, Councilwoman Simpson, and Cincinnati Police Chief Blackwell. Twelve sessions were offered throughout the day; they included living a healthy lifestyle on a budget, which engaged students in fun exercises designed to teach them how to stretch their food dollars. Another session, the Secrets of Improv, challenged everyone to do improvisational theater. The goal? To show that there is not much of a line between improv and life.

Another session featured a student panel that emphasized a balancing act of good grades and extracurricular activities. Students were given an opportunity to discuss college planning and preparation to learn more about the ACT and SAT tests. Making Sense of Your Dollars, another session to engage and educate, was a fun workshop experience to help them understand their relationship with money while using simple strategies to produce positive results. A unique workshop experience was a simulation of living in poverty. This interactive experience allowed students to participate in life choices, circumstances, and events to learn there is no one reason why some members of our community are impoverished.

Our featured speaker, Malik Yoba, is an actor, musician, educator, speaker, and author. Malik asked the students to take a pledge of allegiance to creativity. He had the students on the edge of their seats during his keynote and offered a call of action that stressed this message: with planning, intent, and action, anything is possible.

The day was an unforgettable experience not only for the youth but also me. By working on this project for the past nine months with a dedicated team of professionals and creative young people, I learned a lot about youth engagement and the dedication of people who work with youth in our community. I was proud to be a part of the day and I am looking forward to the Youth Summit 2015.

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