Creating Dialogue Between High School Students in Putnam County: Enriching Ourselves Through the Youth Forum

Creating Dialogue Between  High School Students in Putnam County:  Enriching Ourselves Through the Youth Forum

Emma Castellano

Sponsored by the Putnam County Youth Bureau and the 4-H Development Program, the Youth Forum is held yearly at the Clearpool Education Center and allows students from all five high schools in Putnam County to get together and discuss various subjects through self-selected workshops. Through workshops about communication and discussion, we were able to learn important lessons yet also get to know each other and make new friends.

The Youth Forum provides a medium for young people from Brewster, Carmel, Haldane, Mahopac, and Putnam Valley to interact on a personal level, an experience that we as students don’t frequently have. As teenagers, our lives are centered around school and spend most of our time here, therefore the majority of people we know are met through our school. Eventually, one might feel bored, being with the same people every day from kindergarten to high school graduation, which is why the Youth Forum is an amazing opportunity. The inter-community dialogue that happens at the Youth Forum has an extremely positive influence on ourselves and our county as a whole. The value of what you will learn at the Youth Forum is immeasurable. I can genuinely say, by applying the knowledge I’ve received from the Youth Forum to my daily life, I’ve become a better and more productive person.

Having attended my first Youth Forum last year, I was eager to sign up again. You can sign up for the Youth Forum through school, choosing 5 workshops you’d like to attend. Once at the Youth Forum, you’ll find yourself in a room with roughly 10-20 other students, most of whom you’ve never met before, doing a variety of activities, hosted by a facilitator who is a professional in a field related to the workshop. Each workshop is fifty minutes long, and lunch is served midday.

In “The Clock is Ticking,” a workshop about learning organizational skills and time management, I learned how to prevent procrastination, and for me, the best method the facilitators suggested was positive self-rewarding. They explained that some people can easily be distracted from their school work or studying by activities that seem more entertaining, such as hobbies, TV, or spending time with friends. However, that hindrance can actually help increase your productivity, if used correctly. They suggested setting goals or time periods dedicated to the task, and then once completed, rewarding yourself with something you enjoy. For example: let’s say you need to write a DBQ for history class due next week, but you just can’t find it in yourself to sit there all weekend typing for hours. Instead, you could divide the work into a few increments, setting a goal for the end of each period, then once you achieve each goal, you could set aside time for watching an episode of a tv show you like. The reward should motivate you to finish your task.

Owen, a freshman from Brewster, said his favorite workshop was “What Makes, and How to Become, a Leader.” He explained that, “the facilitator really inspired me. Becoming a leader starts with believing in yourself.”

Julie, a junior from Brewster described her experience from the same workshop: “Master Melella had me break a wooden board to demonstrate that power comes from self-confidence.” Everyone I spoke to agreed that the Youth Forum has a positive influence on young people.

“All students leave with new skills that they can use to boost their self-confidence and encourage them to become more involved [in their community],” is what Shannon, a senior from Carmel observed.
“I think the Youth Forum was a great way to learn about things that aren’t talked about much in school,” said Isabel, a freshman from Putnam Valley.

Over 150 students attend each year, however Brewster has been extremely underrepresented. I would strongly recommend for anyone interested to sign up next year, as there’s something for any kind of student; you can learn valuable information such as organizational skills, college preparedness, and an introduction to self defense, or you can get to know each other in workshops like “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work” or “If You Really Knew Me.” The Youth Forum is a safe environment, with workshops about sensitive subjects providing a list of resources to those who may need it, and with the use of anonymous question boxes, there’s no judgment. To attend is a truly enriching experience, and next spring I hope to see even more BHS students there.