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Youth Leadership Conference empowers students to lead

I will never forget the looks on the faces of the small group of high school students surrounding me as I asked them how they enjoyed the Youth Leadership Conference that day.

My exhausted mind flashed back to the early morning set up, last minute preparations and trouble-shooting tactics I employed throughout the day, yet their faces reflected a drastically different experience.

"I never actually realized that I could really make a difference in my community," explained one of the youths as others nodded in agreement. What seemed like a hectic day to me had apparently been an inspiring day to the youth who had been in attendance. There is only one word that I could use to describe these youth as they walked away from the Youth Leadership Conference that day: empowered.

The YLC is an annual event hosted by Gwinnett United in Drug Education, Inc., a nonprofit substance abuse prevention organization that has been serving Gwinnett County and the state of Georgia for 20 years.

YLC began as a one-day event, hosted by a local high school. It continues today, in its fifth year, to reach its goal to inspire and empower youth to emerge as influential leaders in their schools and communities.

Youth throughout the country report that they do not feel valued by their communities and are seldom seen as resources. At GUIDE, we try to reverse this trend by providing opportunities for young people to develop their leadership skills and attitudes and, even more importantly, to ensure there are meaningful opportunities around Gwinnett for these youth to apply these skills.

The annual YLC is one tool to make this happen. This year's conference will be held Feb. 3 at Meadowcreek High School. It is open to all middle and high school students and to adults who work with youth. The registration fee is $12.

The conference will begin with a keynote presentation by Anton Flores, who always motivates his audiences with his dynamic words and insightful ideas. Participants will attend elective leadership workshops on topics such as discovering their leadership style, becoming an effective public speaker, money management, and faith-based leadership.

Participants may also choose to participate in fun and engaging teambuilding activities and service projects that will benefit their community. The conference will wrap up with a presentation called Freedom Calls, a multimedia production featuring music and movies that will encourage youth to protect their personal freedom through conviction, courage, and ambition.

This is the first year that the YLC had a formal Youth Advisory Board involved in the planning and delivery. This group of students from across Gwinnett has participated in planning multiple aspects of the conference, from the T-shirt design to workshop topics and presenters. This group will also serve as the hosts and staff on the actual day of the conference.

For more information, to register, to donate or to volunteer for the Youth Leadership Conference, please visit www.guideinc.org/ylc or call Ari Russell at 678-377-4132 or e-mail her at guideinc@mindspring.com.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Ari Russell of GUIDE.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.