Wednesdays are typically short days for sites in the Burton School District, but that didn’t deter five hundred students from grades 7 to 12 from giving up a bit of their free time to participate in the district’s first-ever Youth Summit April 24, at Summit Charter Collegiate Academy.
Guest presenters from Tulare County Office of Education, Porterville Police Department, and Central Valley Family Crisis Center and the Suicide Prevention Task Force (SPTF) gave classes, encouraged student participation and helped empower them with special activities. Students attended three different presentations out of seven during the day, and topics ranged from fostering healthy self-esteem, social media dangers, the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs to creating healthy boundaries in relationships and preventing teen dating violence.
Another presentation about mindfulness and well-being by Triage Grant helped students learn to reduce stress, manage emotions, and improve school performance. Gene Mendes spoke with students about being safe at school, identifying bullying and reporting it to an adult. The name of his presentation was #Your Words Matter.
The most intense session was about suicide prevention and depression, presented by Van Landingham of the SPTF, and it provided information about awareness, risk factors, and warning signs about mental health issues.
Shawn Davila, assistant to BSD Superintendent Sergio Mendoza, and BSD psychologist Samantha Mulvihill, watched a class in the SCCA gym called “Your Mind Matters” presented to over 85 students by Tulare County Office of Education Behavioral Services instructors Tiffany Stark and Meade Williams. The session, which was very empowering for students, focused on self-esteem and depression, and the class stressed that self-esteem and self-worth is a big part of being successful in everything you do.
The instructors had the students talk to each other and tell each other what they were good at. Then the students would talk in front to the group, and many said, “I’m good at soccer. I’m good at being loud. I’m good at cooking. I’m good at being a friend,” and so on. The instructors emphasized that self aphorisms are part of self-esteem.
“I am so proud of you talking about yourselves,” said Williams. “Talking about yourself is a prediction, and it can empower you. Saying positive things about ourselves can improve our thoughts about ourselves. They are self-affirmations.”
She went on to explain that students can overcome challenges by using self-affirmations like starting the day doing something they like, or if they are having a low day they can remind themselves about the things they are good at.
“The premise of the “You Matter” youth summit was to promote student wellness and self-worth,” said Mulvihill. “Burton wanted to provide a way for our students to connect to community resources and remind each student that they really do matter. The outpouring of community support for this event is evidence of how much our small community values our youth and their wellness. It is truly incredible.”
Some of the guest presenters at the summit commented on the character displayed by BSD students at the event
“The kids were so kind,” said Stark. “It’s impressive when you give students a chance to share their strengths. Many of the students’ hands went up. When they realized they could talk positively about themselves, it was empowering.”
Jizzelle Rodriguez, 13, attended the “Your Heart Matters” presentation by Family Crisis Center, which addressed healthy relationships and relationship abuses. She said they talked about different type of relationship abuses; physical, verbal, or mental abuse. She said the presentor told them “it can take up to months or years to make up for the stress and depression that stem from mental abuse.”
SCCA counselor Danielle Aguilar said the students from SCCA, Burton Middle School, and Summit Charter Intermediate Academy came to the summit on their own accord.
“We are very excited to provide this opportunity for students. It’s important they have information for the resources available in the community,” said Aguilar. “We want to make sure students know they matter and how important they are.”
Aguilar added the summit was a collective idea from a committee that included Burton district psychologists, school counselors, and district office personnel, and they look forward to making the summit an annual event.
Anthony Ochoa, 12, said he really enjoyed how open the presenters were in the self-esteem class.
“I liked how they taught us to be open and say what we are good at, and what we liked,” said Anthony. “I think it is a good experience for people who aren’t open to learn to talk about what they love to do.”
Besides presentations and classes, there were all sorts of raffles, prizes, activities, and opportunities for students to talk to career, college, and community resources. There were also food and snack vendors and obstacle courses for the kids to have fun.
“This has been great that there is such a great turnout,” said English teacher Benjamin Posluch, “We’ve been wanting to make a point to our students that we care about them. It’s neat to see a good show of support from the district, the County Superintendent, and the district personnel.”