Remember the show on BET called “Teen Summit?” That was one of my favorite shows as a teen. The show covered everything from politics, safe sex, current events, and popular music. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at Dekalb Early College Academy’s (DECA) Teen Summit. I spoke with 9th and 10th graders about various topics such as dating violence, illicit drug use, cyber bullying, and sexting. The students at DECA were lively and asked poignant questions. They were transparent and added much to the conversation. In order for students to attend DECA, they have to go through an admissions process and be accepted. The students complete 9th and 10th grade at DECA and 11th and 12th grade at Georgia State University. When they graduate, they will have a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. The students gave personal examples of how they struggle with balancing the influence of social with academic success. Most of the students admitted that they participate in social media and it is mainly used to connect with their classmates as well as friends that do not attend DECA. Overarching theme of the conversation was that it is okay to explore different things, people, and relationships, however, it is also important to have priorities and a checks and balances system set up to stay on track with attaining goals. The students also wanted to make sure that their voices were heard and that school staff and parents take the time to really listen to them.
After the open conversation portion, there was a question and answer segment. The questions that the students asked were powerful. It was obvious that they take their educations and lives seriously. I was honored to have time with the students of DECA. It was also clear that the 9th and 10th graders have some anxiety about going to Georgia State and what to expect on campus. That is to be expected. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to attend college in the 11th and12th grade. The students wanted to be as prepared as possible for their time at GSU, it was evident in the questions they asked. They were influential and goal oriented.
Getting out into the community and speaking about mental health is something I am passionate about. Especially speaking with youth. It always amazes me to see things from their perspective and to be able to learn from them. Mental health and wellness goes beyond the session/therapy room. I appreciate each opportunity that allows to reach the community. Thank you to the counseling team and students of DECA. I look forward to returning.
Love, live, life