Students Teaching Respect Integrity Values and Equality . . . that's just what happened on April 10, 2014, when the District Attorney's Youth Advisory Board hosted a day-long conference focusing on engaging 8th 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 underage drinking and substance abuse, stress management, bullying, internet safety, peer pressure, healthy relationships, and more.  The conference challenged students to find their inner leader and provided them with information and tools to move forward into high school confidently.

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 its 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.  The Board served as team leaders for the 19 schools that participated and spent the day mentoring their younger peers and connecting with the students through discussion and interactive workshops.  The day included: 

Finding Your Inner Leader The interactive keynote address helped students map their future by realizing who they are as leaders. Presented by The Leadership Program, New York City 

Magic and illusions used to educate students on social media dangers, what to look for, and how to post responsibly, presented by Robert Hackenson of Dynamic Influence

The Stress Response: Why You Need It, How You Feed It, and Why Drugs Make Everything Worse. Presented by Dr. Jennifer Michaels, Medical Director of Adult Outpatient Services at The Brien Center

LGBT Allyship: Supporting Your Peers. Discussion led by Jess McDonald, a graduate student and member of Campus Pride at UMass Amherst.

Dirt: Drugs, Bullying, Choices. Through his dramatic one-man show, John Morello uses a new weapon in the war against bad choices - laughter - to deliver a thought-provoking presentation on social issues impacting teens.

Be the Change: Moving Forward With Confidence. Presented by Kim Boland, Miss Hall’s School.

Advisory Board members also created and delivered their own unique session entitled Navigating Your Path to High School, which addressed important topics for students as they move forward into high school including healthy relationships, peer pressure, time management, classes, extracurricular activities, volunteering and community service, social media and social networking, and college.

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 2013 - 2014 academic year were: Caitlin Moriarty and Dylan Quinn, BART Charter Public School; Joseph Liporace and Allison Meehan, Drury High School; Ian Hill and Jacob Tarjick, Hoosac Valley High School; Madeline Daoust and Michael Demos, Lee Middle & High School; Tucker McNinch and Taylor Tranfaglia, Lenox Memorial Middle & High School; Shane Fuller and Justin Schneider, McCann Technical School; Sophie Bellemare and Maggie Meisberger, Miss Hall's School; Sasha Nader, Mt. Everett Regional School; Taylor Dorsey and Jonathan Ovitt, Mt. Everett Regional School; Ian Brink and Emily Kaegi, Mt. Greylock Regional High School; Dimitri Pixley and Rachele Rosiello, Pittsfield High School; Katherine Nugai and Timothy Wiles, St. Joseph Central High School; Tierney Crocker and Kaylee Wilcox, Taconic High School; and Nicole Gingras and Sean Peters, Wahconah High School.