Conference Addresses Problems Facing Youth
JEFFERSON CITY - The eighth annual Speak Hard Youth conference met Wednesday to discuss common problems youth face in Missouri. The conference is sponsored by Missouri's Youth/Adult Alliance and ACT Missouri.
Youth from across Missouri gathered at the Capitol Plaza Hotel and broke into sessions each hour to talk about things such as underage drinking, texting and driving, and drug abuse.
The event focused on drug and alcohol use among high school teens and how these problems lead to destructive decisions.
"Putting more awareness out there and showing them the damage that can be done. Since we are teens we think we are invincible, we do everything in the moment and we don't think about the long term effects. And I think if we did show them the long term effects that that might change their outlook on drug abuse," youth ambassador Bailee Woods said.
The leading drugs of choice for Missouri teens are alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.
One sponsor suggested ways to fix this current drug trend.
"It's not so much combatting that issue as it is just removing the apathy around drug use and substance abuse and empowering kids that they can make a difference. They can make different choices, removing the kind of everybody's doing it idea," ACT Missouri representative Lauris Mahlin said.
But everyone isn't doing this in Missouri. According to the Department of Mental Health's most recent survey from 2010:
- More than 50% of teens don't drink.
- About 80% of parents don't provide alcohol to teens
- About 2% of parents feel like it's ok to provide alcohol teens
One youth ambassador says this event hits close to home.
"My dad used to when he was in college. He used to sell it and stuff. He got his life straight. Now he's a pastor and stuff. All his friends and stuff, they're either in prison or dead. My life would've been affected a lot if he wouldn't have made that choice to give it up. So that's a big impact in my life," Joel Bleedlove said.
Eddie Slowikowski was this year's keynote speaker. He incorporated music and trivia to help teens learn team building skills. More than 20 legislators were scheduled to attend and present awards to exemplary youth in the community.
The event ended with a proclamation signing at the capitol, marking April as Alcohol Awareness Month in Missouri.
To learn more about the Missouri Youth Adult Alliance , visit its website.