Posted: Mar 27, 2014 10:33 AM by Lee Anne Denyer, KOMU 8 Reporter
Updated: Mar 27, 2014 10:43 AM
JEFFERSON CITY - Hundreds of teens marched to the capitol from Capital Plaza Hotel and then went to the offices of state legislators as part of the 10th annual Speak Hard Youth conference Wednesday afternoon.
Talking about drugs, alcohol, bullying and depression with friends can be difficult for any teen, but the conference participants learned how to do it and had the opportunity to share what they'd learned with local lawmakers.
The conference included students and teens from high school and advocacy groups across Missouri. They marched to remind state lawmakers of the importance of teen issues in legislation.
"I think youth really influence them," said MYAA Project Director Chelsea Billeck said, "I do think hearing the voices and the message from a different source than they normally hear from is important and influential."
Before the march, participants discussed issues surrounding underage drinking, teen marijuana use, distracted driving, and bullying. They used what they learned in the workshops to help them prepare for afternoon conversations with lawmakers.
Bryce Gibson attends Lee's Summit North High School. He said he was shocked to learn Missouri did not have prescription drug-monitoring program. He said he planned to talk about House Bill 1133, which would enact a monitoring system if passed, with lawmakers later that afternoon.
"As far as Missouri laws go, that's something big we can talk about," he said.
The conference also serves the purpose of building self-esteem so teens have the confidence to have those hard conversations.
"We're learning how to respond using facts, if we're put in a situation where we need them." Gibson said.
The Missouri Youth Adult Alliance (MYAA), a program under ACT Missouri and the Division of Behavioral Health sponsored the event. MYAA leaders said studies show 31 percent of Missouri teens find alcohol to be very easy to obtain and nearly 20 percent admit to riding in a car with someone who has been drinking.