Summit focuses on positives

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 2, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – The 40th Judicial District’s Children and Youth Services Planning Board held its second annual teen town hall on Thursday at New Wine Church.
Students from schools across St. John the Baptist Parish participated in the interactive summit. Groups of children rotated into small “breakout sessions” led by community figures to gather more information about subjects such as bullying, sexting, the influence of social media, self-esteem, drugs, guns and the Civil Rights Movement. The Children and Youth Services Planning Board aims to empower every child and provide them with the means to become responsible, productive citizens.
“The intent is to reach the kids and show them there’s other things out there besides drugs and violence and show them that people still care about them,” said coordinator and volunteer Bernell Charles. “It’s an increase from last year, and we’re looking at bigger and better things for next year.”
Charles said the planning board hopes to make the summit available to the general public next year.
The summit concluded with a speech from Virgil Speed, a mentor who said he has seen what life on the streets has to offer. Speed, who said he constantly moved around during his teen years, lost his lower leg at age 13 as the result of an accident with a slow-moving train.
“I wasn’t always the person I am right now. I’ve lived that life before, drugs, guns and gangs. A combination of me staying in these different types of environments made me see that I could either do something with myself, or I could live the street life and get stuck in the hood, for lack of better words,” he said.
“I just want to let them know that no matter what they go through in life, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. You’re here for a reason. You just have to find out the reason,” he added.
Also in attendance were: Jordan Dorsey, a former American Idol contestant, Louisiana State Rep. Randall Gaines, mental health counselor Charles Dennis and Superintendent Kevin George.