Team Indy Impacts Area Teens Through CHOICES Youth Conference

By passmore on May 4, 2011 in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alumni

On Friday, April 22nd, Team Indy hosted a conference for Indianapolis high school students entitled CHOICES: Make Your Own. The conference was our team’s long term project, and the culmination of five months of planning and preparation. Held in Indianapolis, this conference included interactive sessions, a service project, and a presentation by Picture This, an interactive theater group. The ultimate goal of the conference was to empower youth to make their own decisions, with the long term vision of improved health and well-being. While we were united under this single goal, it took a number of players to make CHOICES a success.

Community leaders from the fields of health, education, and HIV/AIDS led six different interactive discussions with topics ranging from self-esteem to community service. Three panel discussions, led by groups of teens, provided firsthand accounts of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and community service.  About 60 youth participated, along with 30 presenters, 10 agencies, and 15 volunteers.

In addition, various community members were in attendance to understand the needs of Indianapolis youth. Ms. Audrey Satterblom, a community member, described the event as “a remarkable program” that she hoped could be brought to all high school students within IPS. Mr. Jermaine Couch, a conference presenter and care coordinator for the Damien Center, described the conference as “just what this community needs and more” adding that he “had a lot of fun interacting with these youth.”

While the conference was led by presenters, the emotions, reactions, and participation of the students punctuated the event and brought it all together. Describing what she had gained from CHOICES, one student said “I’ve learned to love myself and be cautious of the decisions I plan on making.” Other students commented that as a result of the conference they had learned to “value [their] self-worth” and “love [themselves] no matter what.”

Team coordinator Ebony Barney described the inspiration for this conference saying “to prevent new HIV infections, we must address healthy relationships first. For example, a person who is struggling with domestic violence is going to have difficulty making a decision that will stop them from becoming HIV positive. Through the examination of healthy relationships in their entirety, students are empowered to take control in their own lives, setting an example for other young people to follow. Ultimately, these young people will be the ones to determine the role that HIV and other health issues will play in the future.”

We were able to see our vision come to life through the CHOICES conference and are still feeling the resounding effects that our program has had on the Indianapolis community.

To see a video documenting the CHOICES conference, click here.

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