It’s hard to believe that it has already been a month since we stepped foot onto Oxford College’s campus to begin unloading the moving truck and settling in for Georgia Teen Institute 2015. Since coming home, if you’ve caught yourself thinking of new ways you could save the canister, stomping your Georgia Rain feet or even wondering if random recycling you come across would make a good totem piece, let’s just say you’re definitely not alone. As we recap this last part of GTI 2015, we hope you think of the great memories made during this summer’s program. If you haven’t had a chance to read about General Sessions and Team Meetings, what are you waiting for?!
This year’s theme was Branch Out, a phrase that marks expanding outside our comfort zones, connecting with new people and helping each other learn and grow. In the context of this meaningful symbolism, workshops can be thought of as a major aspect of the program that helped us plant new seeds, or in other words, provide a foundation to allow us to learn new skills and tools to become better leaders. GTI offers workshops to supply resources for teams, as well as give opportunities for individuals to grow in specific areas that will help them be more effective change agents in their communities. Across over 20 workshop slots that were filled, we had amazing presenters come from far and wide to help participants learn new things that they could apply when they go home, both benefiting them personally and adding value to their Youth Action Teams. During GTI 2015, workshops fit into four categories that taught fundamental knowledge and leadership skills: substance abuse prevention, youth voice and communication, youth empowerment and future planning and healthy relationships.
Substance Abuse Prevention
As GTI is GUIDE’s largest substance abuse prevention program, offering workshops that fall into this category is essential to providing a framework for prevention at camp. Especially for teams who go back to their communities to conduct projects related to underage drinking and other drug prevention, these workshops offered a variety of tools for learning the dangers and consequences of drug use, effectively assessing the community and utilizing materials to successfully implement prevention campaigns.
- GUIDE’s own Molly Fraiser & Mahuli Jakubek provided two workshops for adults. In one, they gave information and materials on conducting warning glass cling campaigns to help reduce retail access to alcohol among minors. They also offered another detailing how to secure a proclamation from local officials and how to conduct social norms campaigns.
- Ari Russell also presented a workshop for adults where they examined GUIDE’s “Red Ribbon Week and Beyond” manual and discussed several prevention activities that can be completed year-round.
- Dana Bryan shared the story of her daughter’s death due to her choice to get involved with drug use. Participants engaged in discussion around how the choices in our lives impact our future.
- Lauren Healey & Emily Boness from UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development engaged participants in distinguishing needs- and asset-based approaches to community involvement and used real examples to guide the group in identifying important assets in communities.
Youth Voice & Communication
An important part of building leadership qualities, workshops on youth voice and developing communication skills are critical for participants coming to GTI. Learning to effectively use their voices and communicate with others not only helps participants build a positive sense of self, but this also informs communication strategies for implementing their projects planned at GTI, like engaging with community members and obtaining stakeholder support. These workshops covered several key topics such as finding our voices, active listening and effectively communicating what we truly mean.
- VOX Teen Communications led participants through hands-on activities and reflections that allowed them to project their unique, authentic voices and strengthen their abilities to do so in their communities when they return home.
- Crystal Culver challenged participants to reflect on and identify their true self in order to effectively use our voices. In addition, she provided communication skills for expressing oneself and discussed how communication impacts various parts of our lives.
- Yvonne Harvey-Williams discussed with participants real situations and tough issues that teens deal with on a daily basis. Using her own personal story as a backdrop, she provided advice and answers on a broad spectrum – from being misunderstood to self-esteem battles.
- Durand Farley led a dynamic workshop on active listening as it applies to interpersonal communication and conflict resolution. Through interactive games, examples and exercises, real world communications skills were tested, examined and improved using realistic techniques.
Youth Empowerment & Future Planning
Several workshops at GTI helped youth understand that they have power within their own lives and communities to make change, as well as power to gain valuable life skills for personal success and for working in their Youth Action Teams. From encouragement to being ourselves to goal setting to applying to college, a wide array of topics were covered in these exciting and unforgettable workshops.
- Sam Oduselu explained the five ways to become unforgettable and indispensable in life, school and work by breaking down the acronym DREAM (Discover your gift, Realize you have the power to impact, Exercise your gift, Associate with positive and productive people, Make wise decisions).
- Tera Reid guided participants through creating realistic goals and steps to achieving them.
- Lakeysha Hallmon provided insight into the importance of dreaming and the necessary factors to manifest those dreams: the power of words, identifying strengths and learning how to make the best use of perceived weaknesses.
- Brian Darby explained his 10 Myths of Adulthood and shared several of his experiences and lifetime decisions, all while encouraging participants to consider that being “weird” may not be such a bad thing.
- Trena Gologan from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine covered how to approach applying to college with professionalism.
- William Kearney led a workshop exclusively for adults on exploring E-QYP, a technology-based resource that provides access to adolescent development information and how to apply it when working with youth.
Because there are so many issues facing youth today that influence substance use and abuse, providing students with a well-rounded selection of workshops that includes building healthy relationships is essential. With workshops covering bullying, teen dating violence and youth/adult communication, these various sessions were perfect for setting a foundation on how healthy relationships look and feel and why they are important in our lives.
- Michael Buchanan, author of The Fat Boy Chronicles, led a lively discussion on bullying and emerging ideas that can work in our own communities to prevent it.
- Claire Lisco from the Partnership Against Domestic Violence engaged participants in a dialogue about teen dating relationships, types of abuse and recognizing warning signs to help protect ourselves and be effective bystanders.
- VOX Teen Communications led another workshop about strengthening communication skills, this time to enhance relationships between youth and adults, especially as it relates to having open conversations about alcohol and drugs.
As you can tell, we were not short of talent or expertise at GTI 2015 when it came to delivering engaging, beneficial and fun workshops. We are very fortunate that each of these dynamic presenters chose to dedicate their time and energy to our program. Though hundreds of participants cycled through these workshops across both weeks of the program, we are confident that each individual walked away with a new seed planted and something learned to strengthen their Youth Action Team. We are excited to see the changes that occur in communities all across the state of Georgia – the campaigns that are implemented, relationships that are cultivated and voices that are lifted – as a result of skills learned in workshops at GTI.