Teens Train to Talk Alcohol, Substance Abuse with Peers

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JEFFERSON CITY - Hundreds of teens learned how to talk about the social issues teens face each day at the Speak Hard Youth Conference Wednesday.

The teens built leadership skills through interactive keynotes, workshops and team building. The conference, in its tenth year, kicked off at the Capitol Plaza Hotel at 8 Wednesday morning.

In one of the breakout sessions, keynote speaker Heather Schultz helped teens identify what qualities makes a good leader.

Participants shouted on words like confidence, modest, strong, outgoing, and dependable to describe what makes a leader in their mind own minds. She talked about forgiveness and the importance of surrounding self with positive people.

Throughout the day the close to 400 teens will listen to presentations like Schultz', but also complete training on how to advocate for safety in their community.

Panels offered today covered topics about the facts of marijuana use, the warning signs of teen suicide, and national drug trends.

The pinnacle of the day begins at 2 p.m. when the teens plan to march to the Capitol and speak with their legislators about issues facing teens today. Conference organizers taught the participants how to talk with legislators and what talking points will be most impactful.

The goal of the conference is to equip teen leaders in Missouri with skills to have hard conversations regarding alcohol, substances and other issues faced by their peers.

Missouri Youth Adult Alliance, or MYAA, is a coalition under ACT Missouri. The non-profit organization promotes drug and alcohol awareness throughout the state.

MYAA said alcohol is the leading cause of death among teenagers.