For Youth, Nothing Is Impossible
By Sophia Cetina
This summer, five RyeACT Coalition members attended the Eastern States Youth to Youth Conference to strengthen their leadership and prevention skills. Over 700 students were welcomed at the conference, held July 26-29 on the campus of Bryant University in Rhode Island. Eleven communities and twenty schools throughout Westchester participated. RyeACT coordinator Nancy Pasquale, and participants Imogen Salters, Julie Tiedmann, Lucien Overweel, Julia Laber, and I represented Rye.
Students were asked to explore “The other side of impossible”: working to identify an individual’s inhibitions, and channeling that fear toward conquering any so-called “impossible” task or goal.
The diverse schedule featured speakers, workshops, and drug-free fun events. To organize the swarms of students, participants were divided into 41 Family Groups, which consisted of students from different states and backgrounds. Participants met throughout the day with their family groups for team-building activities and to reflect upon the day’s events. An interest in preventative action was common, yet the visible and invisible differences between the members prompted the most genuine connections.
My own Family Group consisted of high schoolers from North Dakota, Connecticut, New York, and other states. Each locale and unique set of experiences highlighted their individuality, and my urge was often not to talk, but to <listen>. Conferring with my group was a practice in empathy, a skill that I, and the other RyeACT members, will bring back to Rye.
RyeACT is an organization whose mission is to empower teens in the community while preventing substance abuse. The group’s work is a year-round commitment to community betterment, and the perspectives gained from Youth to Youth will persist throughout the approaching school-year.
In addition to the familial itinerary, students enjoyed four staff-led workshops. These classes were created and taught by Adult Staff and Youth Staff. Students were able to select from an extensive list of workshops. Options included the Neurobiology of Addiction, which focused on the impact of addictive substances on the brain, Beautiful Me, which uncovered the detriments of low self-esteem while encouraging self-love, and Procrastination Elimination, a class that described good habits as the center of proactivity. The workshops were not a mere echoing of anti-drug sentiment. They forged paths to mental, physical, and social self-improvement, and participant Julia Laber notes, “We will bring the skills we learned into our communities.”
Youth to Youth’s mission transcends the four days of the conference and is now instilled in hundreds of participants. For each student, the takeaway is different. However, the message rings the same. Lucien Overweel offers, “Now it’s our turn to keep those feelings of love and acceptance and to spread them.” The first step is to make happy, healthy, and productive choices. The next step is to share that knowledge with others in the community. It’s important for teenagers to create places to connect, have fun, and be their authentic selves without substance abuse — and, most importantly, without a fear of the impossible.
Caption: The author, Sophia Cetina, Julia Laber, Imogen Salters, and Lucien Overweel