You might remember your freshman year of high school, the place where your locker was always jammed with loose papers, where you might have felt just a little bit uncomfortable all of the time in your bell bottom jeans and pimply cheeks, and where “finding your voice” was just about as difficult as finding a way to ask that cutie who sat in front of you on a date to the school dance.
But, oh, the times they are a changin’. This Saturday, Philadelphia’s youth are invited to “find themselves” at the first ever Rise & Dream Philly Teen Conference. The conference, which builds off of Youth Service, Inc.’s 17th annual “I Can Dream” Teen Conference and the Advocacy Institute’s 4th annual #RISE Youth Summit, are banding together to offer a safe space for teens to share their concerns and opinions both locally and nationally.
I want every youth to leave the conference knowing that they are a valued member of their community and they can be a voice for themselves and others.
The combining of organizations came from the realization that both have been doing similar conferences in the past. “We decided to combine the two in order to empower more Philly teens in the area to stand up against negative influences and peer pressure,” says Dan Brightcliffe, marketing manager for Youth Service Inc.
The theme, “Find Yourself, Be Yourself” is a call to action for local teens to build their sense of identity and confidence to stand up to peer pressure. To do this, the conference, that’s expecting over 300 attendees, will host panels, workshops and discussions all with the goal to help youth find the leader within themselves.
Participants of the conference—which, hello, is free for all 13-18 year olds—will hear from speakers and performers like keynote speaker Wallo267, who, after 20 years in prison, is now a positive social media influencer for youth; Project Positive, a local dance organization supporting community outreach and connection in Philly; and artist ÅrÄmØ, who uses her passion for music to boost “Voice of the Young People.”
The conference will offer light breakfast and lunch, giveaways, and more. We emailed with Executive Director of Youth Service, Gwen Bailey, to find out more.
The unique aspect of the youth coming to the conference is that they are willing and excited about venturing into an arena that is not their neighborhood or school.
Jamie Bogert: Where did the theme for the summit, “Find Yourself, Be Yourself,” come from?
Gwen Bailey: The theme came from a youth member of the planning committee who wanted a theme that supported youth being themselves and not having to hide who they are or fear expressing themselves.
JB: What do you think a “positive path for the future” looks like for Philadelphia’s youth and what will be going on at the summit to help provide that?
GB: It is essential that every adult, every advocate, every neighbor embraces the vision that youth can and will succeed when surrounded by support, skills, compassion and knowledge. The conference, in its 17th year, offers an opportunity for youth to engage with adults and youth who have faced adversity and have plowed through many obstacles, stumbling along the way and getting back up every time. The summit can offer hope, it can offer connections, it can offer an opportunity to have your voice heard when you may not be comfortable in school or at home lending your voice.
JB: What’s unique about the age group, 13 to 18, who are invited the conference?
GB: The unique aspect of the youth coming to the conference is that they are willing and excited about venturing into an arena that is not their neighborhood or school. They are willing to come to Temple and engage with others from many different backgrounds and from many different communities. Their willingness and enthusiasm sets them apart.
JB: More and more, youth are standing up for what they believe in and demanding they be heard. How will this summit aide Philadelphia’s youth in that movement?
GB: We really hope that this summit is the beginning of many youth becoming advocates for those areas they are passionate about and that they will learn creative ways to have their voices heard.
JB: What do you hope the takeaway will be?
GB: I want every youth to leave the conference knowing that they are a valued member of their community and they can be a voice for themselves and others. I hope they learn how important it is to stand up for what you believe in and do so with deliberate compassion.
Saturday, May 18, 9 am-3 pm, Free for Youth 13 to 18, Temple University’s Howard Gittis Student Center, 1755 N. 13th StreetPhoto via Rise & Dream