Conference aims to empower teens

| 31/05/2017
CNS Local Life

Cayman Brac teens at the selfie booth

(CNS Local Life): More than 80 teenagers, including a contingent from Cayman Brac, attended the first-ever Youth Empowerment Conference #IAM2K17 on Friday, 26 May 2017. The six-hour event, staged by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) at the Family Life Centre, was held in partnership with the National Youth Commission, and included the Youth Services Unit (YSU) and the National Drug Council (NDC).

The event was designed to get teens thinking about their cultural heritage and identity, who they were as people and, more importantly, who they wanted to be as individuals, stated a government press release. Attendees were also challenged to self-evaluate and take responsibility for their actions.

DCFS Director Felicia Robinson told the conference, “Our Child Month activities this year place an intense emphasis upon building youth participation. This is because we recognise participation as a critical pillar in developing our children today, for leadership tomorrow.

“The underlying purpose of this conference is consistent with our deliberate outreach, preventive and education strategy of empowering our children and youth and helping them discover their voice.”

In acknowledging the support of the partner agencies, Robinson added, “Your combined advocacy, voluntary service and financial contributions support us every year in introducing youth-led innovations, programmes focused upon youth resilience-building and in strengthening our protective and child-safeguarding interventions.”

Local rapper and songwriter Justin Johnson also performed several original compositions.

CNS Local Life

Keynote speaker Javier Sanchez addresses the conference

DCFS Deputy Director of Clinical Services Paulinda Mendoza-Williams introduced Javier Sanchez, a US-based motivational speaker who, in his keynote address, used personal testimony, rap and comedy to advise the teenagers about their ability to shape their own stories and become the best individuals that they could be. He encouraged them and others not to ask what they wanted to be when they were older but rather what they wanted to be now.

A former gangbanger and drug dealer, Sanchez is now the CEO of R.E.A.C.H Communications, a youth-empowerment firm. He delivered a positive message of self-determination and of never being too old or too bad to change.

The one-time youth development worker in Grand Cayman also told the teens that their potential was limitless, warning that if they did not determine who they would become others would make that decision for them. Sanchez advised them that chasing wealth for wealth’s sake was no substitute for finding happiness and self-worth through helping others.

During the break the teenagers took selfies at the #IAM2K17 photo booth.

Interactive breakout sessions followed, on social and cultural identity mediated by the YSU and the NDC, and on leadership led by Sanchez.

Another session offered attendees tips on how to visualise their goals and successfully pursue them.

Robinson said of the conference: “The event went really well and we have had excellent feedback from the participants, the principals and organising staff.  As a new major initiative, we think it was well worth the effort.”

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Category: Youth

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