ELIZABETH — The Union County Youth Services Commission hosted their inaugural Community Engagement Summit Initiative for Middle School Students: Take Control of Your Future on Saturday, Dec. 8 at Union County College’s Elizabeth Campus. More than 100 middle school students, school representatives, law enforcement, agency providers, student and adult volunteers from across Union County’s 21 municipalities attended the event.
“The Freeholder Board is honored to have been able to support the Youth Services Commission in hosting this wonderful event,” said Freeholder Vernell Wright.
The morning portion of the event included a welcome by Freeholder Wright, a keynote presentation from Rev. Charles Atkins, Chaplain at the Bordentown Youth Correction Facility and a student performance from the Institute of Music located in Elizabeth.
The students were energetic during interactive sessions, taking in the message which emphasized the importance of personal responsibility and striving for greatness in a demanding world. Both message and performance served as an inspiring and tangible way for them to start taking control of their future, while enabling them to recognize ways to encourage each other to make positive life choices.
The afternoon portion of the event offered a number of workshops facilitated by agency providers that work with young people throughout the county. Workshop topics included Violence Prevention, Peaceful Alternative to Tough Solutions, Interactive Performing Arts, and Reading Around the World.
There were also two workshops specially designed for parents/guardians: Youth Achieving Success for Caregivers and Current Drug and Alcohol Trends in Union County. These workshops were designed to empower parents/guardians and provide them with the resources to identify risky behaviors.
After an energized day of presentations and motivational workshops the event closed with Sheriff Ralph Froehlich who delivered a strong message on the importance of staying on track and the long term effects of poor decision making on families and communities.
Froehlich shared from his personal experiences as a law enforcement professional and also as a resident of Elizabeth and encouraged participants to reinforce their dreams of a better tomorrow without compromising their integrity and self-worth today.
“This inaugural event truly celebrated the children of Union County, and emphasized that not all of our young people are involved in anti-social behavior,” said Youth Services Commission Administrator Monica Lallo. “It was inspiring to see such a large group of young people come out so early on a Saturday morning seeking to find a positive path to forge ahead.”
The Youth Services Commission administers grant funds received from the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission. Through these funds and the support of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Community Engagement Summit Initiative was made possible.
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