Students Teaching Respect Integrity Values and Equality . . . that's just what happened on April 5, 2011, when the District Attorney's Youth Advisory Board hosted a day-long conference focusing on engaging 8 th grade leaders to think about and discuss social issues and pressures facing today's teens.

The STRIVE (Students Teaching Respect, Integrity, Values and Equality) Youth Conference tackled topics such as bullying, internet safety, teen dating, street and prescription drugs, peer pressure and more.

The creation of the conference was this year's project for the 28-member Youth Advisory Board that works in partnership with the Office's Community Outreach and Education program. The Board meets with staff once a month and lends their passion and innovative ideas to prevention initiatives geared toward improving quality of life for young people in our community.

The conference was totally driven by the Board, whose members identified the topics, selected the speakers and planned the agenda.

Attendees began their day listening to a passionate keynote address by 17-year-old Brigette Berman, author of Dorie Witt's Guide to Surviving Bullies. Brigette shared her experiences of being bullied because of her height and reputation as a science "geek". Brigitte provided strategies for overcoming bullying behavior and encouraged the students to come together and stand strong instead of trying to rip one another apart.

Students also heard presentations by Sergeant Steven Del Negro, Commander of the Massachusetts ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force, and Massachusetts State Police Trooper Glenn Lagerwall of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, as well as a theatrical presentation dealing with dating relationships entitled Remote Control by Deana's Fund Educational Theater.

Advisory Board members also created and delivered their own unique session entitled Surviving High School 101, which addressed important topics for students as they move forward into high school including increased workload and responsibilities, health and wellness, relationships, making positive choices, and developing a strong support system.

Sgt. Steven Del Negro discusses social media

In the closing ceremony Board members entertained their younger peers with a sing-off that featured their own personal adaptation of popular songs including personal lyrics that they wrote to reflect the message of the conference.

The attendees where challenged not only to incorporate what they learned at the conference in their own lives but to use their leadership strengths and communication skills to continue the conversation with their classmates.

Youth Advisory Board members for the 2010 - 2011 academic year were: Mallorey Caron and Morgan Hussey, Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter School; Alexandra Bona and Vito Guerino, Drury High School; Cierra Andrews and Nathan Goyette, Hoosac Valley High School; Clayton Kohlenberger and Whitney Sitzer, Lee Middle and High School; Michelle Messana, Lenox Memorial Middle and High School; Amanda Cariddi and James Nowak, McCann Technical School; Emma Donfried, Miss Hall's School; Kyle Bailey and Anjelica Cardillo, Monument Mt. Regional High School; Laura Smith and Tara Sullivan, Mt. Everett Regional High School; Kim Houston and Siri Mason, Mt. Greylock Regional High School; Tori Peaslee and Tyler Panetti, Pittsfield High School; Nicole Akromoff, Marcus Chiaretto and Erica Quallen, St. Joseph Central High School; Glen Bona, Dar'ya Matkovska, and Brian Kelly, Taconic High School; and Catherine Cherry and Jason Klem, Wahconah Regional High School.