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Summit to address youth problems planned

By Trina Trice

Clayton County's youth are speaking out to adults and each other Saturday at Mt. Zion High School.

The first year of the Youth Summit for Clayton County students has been a continuous effort made on the part of members of the Youth Advisory Council, associated with The Clayton County Collaborative Authority.

Youth Advisory Council President Juliet Walls wants to "get teen's voices heard in Clayton County about the issues they feel have hindered the county from being the best ? and to find solutions to these issues."

The Youth Summit is for "all types of teens, not just the cream of the crop, but those that have had a harder life and are struggling because they are a part of this community," Walls said.

The Youth Advisory Council is reaching out to all races, cultures, and ages of people to attend the summit for their input, said Riche Ivie, Youth Advisory Council secretary.

"Our main focus is to reach out to the youth between 14 and 20, but we would like for adults to attend to hear and see how youth can make a difference within the community."

At the Summit, registered youths will sit and discuss problem areas in feedback workshops facilitated by Youth Advisory Council members and Collaborative Authority board members, said Kate Black, special youth advisor.

The cost for the Youth Summit is from $8,000 to $10,000 and is funded by several grants that support youth leadership development, said Bo Bolander, executive director of the Clayton County Collaborative Authority.

The five areas of focus are drugs, education system, pregnancy and parenting, recreation facilities or lack thereof, and violence in schools.

"I hope that we get enough input and solutions from the youth to form data to present to the adult leaders of our community for them to make accurate decisions concerning the youth of our community," Ivie said. "In order for the Youth Summit to be successful, I hope that a good number of youth show up so that we have a variety of opinions to form solutions. Also, adults in attendance will show how much they do care and support us. A variety of ages should show up, so that we can hear the ideas from different aspects."

Following the Youth Summit, members of the Youth Advisory Council will work on implementing the solutions presented by youth participants from the feedback sessions.

"That's what will be the most important and the most fun over the next four to six months," Bolander said.

Chairman of the Collaborative Authority Board, the Rev. Michael Winsor of the First Christian Church of Morrow, is attending the Summit.

"We want to make life better for children and families in Clayton County," Winsor said.

Inspiration for the Youth Summit came following the attendance of Youth Advisory Council members to a Georgia youth summit at Rock Eagle in September 2001.

"From there we wanted a local youth summit and then we came up with the idea of having a youth council," Walls said. "We proposed this to the decision makers and they we looking for a youth council, as well, so everything just fit. From there we built from four members to probably about 15 plus volunteers. The Youth Summit is our first event."

The purpose of the Clayton County Collaborative Youth Advisory Council is to assist and advise the Clayton Collaborative Authority about concerns, issues, and solutions impacting Clayton County youth; to provide a forum of expression for local youth; and to promote problem solving through an adult/youth partnership, Walls said.

"We formed a youth-adult partnership with the Clayton County Collaborative in 2002 and finally we started interviews to bring prime members on board in the summer of 2002," Ivie said. "Since August 2002, we have been planning the youth summit, which will finally take place," Saturday.