By Erin Ginsburg
More than 100 students attended Pelham PACT’s annual Youth Leadership Summit on December 7th, 2017, where comedian and motivational speaker Javier Sanchez led middle school students in a series of workshops and activities around the theme of “Social Media for Positive Leadership & Change.”
Pelham Middle School students from grades 7 and 8 were invited to attend the all-day event, which was held at Pelham Country Club. In between presentations from Sanchez, students broke into groups to discuss their observations about the ways in which social media and screens play out in their day-to-day lives, and how they can be more reflective about using social networks and mobile apps in a positive way.
“Our middle school students present a wide-range of behaviors and habits when it comes to their digital lives. Some of the students are incredibly active on social media networks; some don’t have phones at all,” said PACT executive director Laura Caruso. “It was incredible to see them come together to try to make sense of the power of social media and to better understand how they can make good choices as they learn to relate to one another both within and outside their digital lives.”
In addition to discussing personal goals and aspirations, attendees were asked to work in groups to select an issue that would resonate with young people in Pelham, and develop an action plan for addressing it in a positive way. Among the many topics that attendees identified, stress, anxiety, time management, sleep deficit and difficulties in relationships rated as the issues that mattered most to them. At the end of the summit, the attendees presented their recommendations to the group.
“It’s all about elevating their voice, empowering our youth to identify issues of importance to them, and allowing them the space and support to implement those ideas,” said Caruso. “We are incredibly proud of the students who attended the summit, and can’t wait to see how they put some of their ideas into action.”
The feedback PACT received about the summit was positive, and indeed, several parents have reported that summit made a big impact. Inspired by the day’s events, one of the attendees instituted a ‘screen-free afternoon’ among her friends; another decided she was going to be a little more critical of the things she posts and to try to refrain from sharing every detail of her personal life on social media.
In the coming months, the Pelham Cares club at the middle school, led by PMS teacher Joshua Steinfeld, will be working to implement some of the ideas generated at the summit for reducing stress and anxiety among students. Steinfeld will also be working with a group of students to develop a set of guidelines about digital responsibility and use.
In addition to the PMS students in attendance, students from Pelham High School and from PACT’s Youth Leadership Council served as youth leaders for the breakout groups, and several parents, community and school leaders were adult volunteers, guiding the discussions throughout the day. A special thank you to Pelham Country Club for their assistance in pulling together such a successful event.