This was the case for nearly 200 youth ages 14-21 who attended the first-ever “Strive to Thrive” Youth Leadership Conference held at Weber State University, recently.
Magic was used to highlight the theme that “illusions in life can hold people back from success.”
“We wanted to offer an experience that was respectful and more on an adult level for these youth, while presenting the information in a way the kids would understand,” said Gaylene Pebley, economic service area manager for the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS).
Youth from Davis, Morgan and Weber counties pre-registered for the event through their local DWS and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The three-fold program is dedicated to helping youth finish high school, obtain job skills or get into college and find a job.
“We’ve never had a conference in this service area,” said Christine Mayne, Youth Services Supervisor at the Clearfield office.
“We brain stormed what messages do kids most need to hear and came up with several themes: how to use information to make good choices, how to stay on track, setting goals, developing healthy attitudes, presentation of themselves and their skills, learning how to dress for employment and what employers are looking for.”
Those goals were met with a variety of guest speakers and breakout sessions.
Keynote speaker Tim Border, WSU professor, brought “the magic” to open the conference with slight of hand tricks designed to drive home the point that “illusions in life can hold people back from success. Like drugs and other distractions, the illusions are so crafty you almost don’t see them coming.
“You must expose those illusions for what they are — anything that distracts you from your goals — then identify what you want out of life,” said Border. “Keep a journal. No it’s not just for giggly girls. Write every day how you’re doing in three areas: 1) write your goals, 2) remember that knowledge is power: what did you learn today, how are you educating yourself, get a mentor, 3) measurably contribute to that target regularly if not daily.”
Border is no stranger to challenges. He had a learning disability to overcome, he crashed his mom’s car, his grades deteriorated, through other bad choices he ended up in a youth home, yet he managed to overcome them to earn a master’s degree at the top 3 percent of all college students nationally.
Other activities included breakout workshops titled “What Employers Want,” “Present Yourself,” “No Jerks Allowed” and “Making Data-full Decisions.” Presentations ranged from exploring life and career options on utahfutures.org to interpreting body language, employer panels and developing healthy family/personal/work relationships.
A lunchtime fashion show presented by the youth featured appropriate interview, business and business casual dress while also addressing the topics of covering tattoos, removing facial piercing, not showing cleavage and “letting your shined shoes reflect your shinning skills.”
The conference wrapped with remarks and demonstrations by Ryan Moody, Guinness Book of World Record Champion and holder of four world records for vertical jumping.
Moody survived a neck injury and temporary paralysis at age eight. At his adult height of 5 feet 9 inches, he can do standing jumps of more than 56 inches. (see http://www.journal.cross fit.com/2010/07/box jump-record.tpl-)
And the youth apparently got the messages intended.
“It’s amazing. I’ve loved pretty much everything,“ said Cassandra Cook, 19. “It’s been great.”