Steps to Success: Zone 126’s Inaugural Youth Summit
On Saturday, January 27, 2018, over 100 students traveled to Long Island City High School to attend Zone 126’s Inaugural Youth Summit. The Summit was geared towards students in middle/high school with the goal of providing youth an opportunity to have their voices heard and to “encourage leadership and academic success as they begin to prepare for their future,” said Anthony Lopez, Executive Director. Alongside partners: Cormac Nataro, enACT, Global Kids, Let’s Get Ready, Little Flower Yoga, and Owen Consulting, Zone 126 was able to put together an event that not only pushed students to think about their next steps, but also inspired them to take action and make a difference.
The Youth Summit began with an inspirational speech by Deputy Chancellor (DC) Milady C. Baez. DC Baez spoke about her journey as a Latina woman and her ability to overcome obstacles to achieve success. DC Baez, despite not understanding the language, was able to graduate college as she explained, “Against all odds, even if I did not know the language, I would get my graduate credits.” DC Milady Baez described how she navigated her way through the education system to be appointed superintendent and eventually becoming Deputy Chancellor for the Division of English Language Learners. “You need to be the people who are going to motivate each other to be future leaders,” she advised to the eager youth of Western Queens.
The Summit strived to give each student the opportunity to experience something new. Workshops were divided into three themes: Success in High school, Path to Success through High School, and Pathways to College & Career. 7th and 8th grade students began their day with a riveting Youth Panel consisting of LICHS students who opened up about their experiences in High School “When I came in [to LICHS] I was very shy. I didn’t want to participate in anything. But then my teacher told me I should join robotics,” explained (Roseli, 11th grade). 9th and 10th graders were given the opportunity to choose from three workshops facilitated by partners enACT, Global Kids and Owen Consulting. Students in the enACT workshop learned about how to express themselves and their desires. “Everyone has a story,” Jose (student) explained to the students as they engaged in honest and unfiltered conversations about life as a high school student. “I want to start hanging out with positive people that will lift me up instead of bring me down.” 11th and 12th graders worked with former City Year member Cormac Nataro to build a resume while others joined Let’s Get Ready’s panel of experts to discuss college applications, financial aid, and next steps.
Students came together during lunch and the cafeteria buzzed with conversations about the workshops. When asked to highlight takeaways from the morning workshops one student raised her hand to express “I learned that everyone is different and everyone experiences things differently, you never know what people are going through.” During lunch, keynote speaker Angy Rivera addressed students. She advised students to use their voice and take a stand for what they believe in, “Through activism I was able to find my voice.” Rivera encouraged the youth to use their voice to create change and explained how important it is to be a leader. By the end of the Summit, students walked away with the knowledge and tools needed to make positive decisions about their future.
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