Charleston County Engages Future Leaders
More than 150 students from high schools in Charleston, S.C. came together for the 9th annual Youth Summit. Sponsored by the City of Charleston Mayor’s Youth Commission, the Summit is intended to provide an opportunity for high school students to come together to talk about the issues that are relevant to them.
The diverse group of high school students engaged in meaningful conversations, and through small group activities were able to create positive solutions to real-world issues. “The Summit was a great way to reach out to students from all walks of life and get our perspectives on issues that we deal with everyday,” said Raven Harris, Burke High School student.
Summit attendees also shared their experiences with dealing with very sensitive topics to include: suicide, divorce, and mental illness. These topics brought about collaborative dialogue about taking action against bullying, talking to a counselor to cope with grief, and seeking help to deal with medical concerns.
Leadership skills, community empowerment, and cultural awareness were also some of the topics of discussion among the students. Jason Sakran, director of Community Education for the Charleston County School District (CCSD) led an inspiring break-out session about goal setting and developing the tools needed to reach them. Academic Magnet High School students Jessica Wright and William Pugh both said that they enjoyed the session, because it taught them to, "not just want to work for a paycheck, but to be passionate about what they decide to pursue in life.”
Learning about leadership traits helped Summit attendees envision themselves and their peers as ‘true’ leaders, and provided that extra boost of confidence and self confirmation that they were indeed making a difference in their schools and communities. Team building exercises, project planning, decision making, and respecting the opinions of others, were added components that helped make this year's Youth Summit a success.
Charleston’s Mayor Joseph P. Riley created the Youth Commission, following the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. He believed it was important to hear directly from teens to address the needs and challenges they were facing. Over the years, the Youth Commission has addressed issues like drugs and alcohol use, stress, teacher quality, and teen pregnancy. Selected through an application process, members of the Youth Commission meet quarterly with Mayor Riley, and monthly with staff members from the Office for Children, Youth, and Families to work on various community projects including the Youth Summit. "I applied to be a part of the Youth Commission after seeing my brother’s involvement. It is fulfilling to know that my voice is being heard, and I am making a positive impact on my own city," said Nicholas Wright, Wando High School student.
Students who are in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade and are in good standing at public and private high schools in Charleston, S.C. are eligible to apply for membership.