WESTFIELD CENTER, Ohio - For two days, Medina County school district sent 30 students to an E4 Youth Summit to create a vision for themselves and their fellow students.
Prompted by recent teen suicides, one of the many topics discussed in the vision approach, over 240 students took part in the brain-storming sessions.
United Way of Medina County explained their approach below:
E4 Youth Program - Engage - Educate - Equip -Empower
The United Way E4 Youth program engages, equips, educates, and empowers Medina County youth ages 12-18 to help them develop skills needed for future success. The program kicks off at the inaugural E4 Youth Summit February 18-19, 2014 at the Blair Center in Westfield.
Students will volunteer in the community in the months following the summit to keep them active where they live. Select students will form a Youth Allocation Council to award grant funds to community projects of their choice.
Students apply by writing their life story and their vision for their community. Selected students will attend the inaugural E4 Youth Summit in February 2014.
The E4 Youth Program will continue into the 2014-15 school year with special class projects, service learning programs, and other positive community engagements.
Students will share their stories, explore possibilities for change, and create a vision. They will learn positive life habits, stress management skills and positive peer interaction strategies, while discovering the importance of becoming a voice in their community.
As open lines of communication a goal, this inaugural summit brought selected students to meet with each other, sharing stories, laughs, and more than a few tears. Many of the students have had experience with someone they have grown up with taking their own life.
Brunswick High School Senior, Kristine Camper, said being part of the historic E4 Summit was more than a necessary, proactive gathering of concerned young adults discussing suicide prevention. Often times parents are not where students dealing with depression, or stress will go seeking help.
"I have a great relationship with my parents," said Camper. "I know that a lot of other kids may not have that relationship with their parents. As I've seen with this Summit, I even asked that question. I said do you guys go to your parents? Almost 75% of the kids nodded their heads (no) and to me that seemed strange."
Camper said that that type of gap in the suicide discussion world is why so many children and young adults lose their way in depression.
"I think that's a big thing we're trying to address with just having someone to talk to, someone to go to, someone to help you get through a situation to show you the light at the end of the tunnel. Show you that there is always a way out. There's always something to help you get through a situation no matter how troubling it is," added Camper.
For Medina High School sophomore, Allison O' Connell, being part of the very first Medina County E4 Youth Summit is something of which she never would have missed.
"I am proud to be a part of it because I feel like we really are the first district to that is ready to make a difference and change what we know we can change,' said O'Connell. "I've had two friends in the last two years commit suicide, so I really want to reach out and somehow change this and change it for the better so that the younger kids don't have to face what these kids have had to face."
"I think it's really important just to make sure, now looking back, that just to always be kind. Some of the smallest actions can make the biggest difference," added O'Connell.