A day in the Game of Life: Kent students learn skills

From left

From left

Raquel Rodriguez couldn’t wait to send text messages to friends as she learned about the dangers of prescription drugs during one of many workshops at a youth conference last week in Kent.

“I sent three texts to tell them what I was doing,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, a junior at Kent-Meridian High School, joined more than 200 teenagers who attended one of the two-day Game of Life conferences Dec. 9-10 at the Kent Commons recreational facility. Students discussed and learned about drugs, leadership, the environment, traffic safety, pregnancy and other topics.

“I learned that even prescription drugs are bad if you use too much of them,” Rodriguez said.

The Kent Police Youth Board, comprised of more than 20 students from high schools and middle schools, organized the 21st-annual conference. Guest speakers addressed topics to help teens learn how to make educated choices about drugs, alcohol, nutrition, relationships and careers.

Rene Malacon, a sophomore at Kentridge High, attended workshops about drugs (called “Hugs, Not Drugs”), the environment (“Going Green”) and leadership (“Jump In”). He came away impressed.

“I learned how to help people who do drugs to stop,” Malacon said. “And I learned how to save energy costs by turning off computers and switching light bulbs. I also learned what type of leader I am and that you need other leaders to be successful.”

Students and adults (teachers, counselors) from every high school and middle school in Kent and Renton attended the conference. Students from schools in Federal Way, Enumclaw and Gig Harbor also attended.

In a way, the conference isn’t over yet.

Students will develop projects to present at their own schools early next year, based on what they learned at the workshops.

A major aspect of the conference was learning to work in harmony, and participants got to do just that.

Literally.

The conference ended each day with a drum ceremony. Each student received a drum to participate in an exercise to blend the various drum rhythms from several groups into the rhythm of one group.

“The basis (of the drum ceremony) is to get the whole group working together to incorporate the diversity of the group,” said Stacy Judd, a Kent Police public education specialist and organizer of the conference.

Kentwood High seniors Candice Kuwahara and Timmy Pham, members of the Kent Police Youth Board, helped select the topics and presenters at the conference. Kuwahara and Pham also led a workshop about leadership.

“It’s a big workload but we had a lot of help from the police department,” Pham said. “We tell them what we want or need and they have the resources.”

The board meets about a dozen times per year. Each board member must pledge to not use drugs or alcohol during their time on the board.

“We teach kids how to make better choices about drinking and drugs,” Kuwahara said about the goals of the Game of Life Conference. “We also have workshops on everyday life, like nutrition and leadership.”

Kuwahara, in her fourth year on the Police Youth Board, said its members try to find workshops that fit the lives of teens.

“Last year, we had a MySpace workshop because it was so big, but it’s not as big now,” Kuwahara said.

But other workshops certainly caught the attention of the more than 200 participating students, who signed up for the conference through their schools.

“I learned how to talk to others and not feel awkward,” said Rodriguez, who attended the leadership workshop taught by Kuwhara and Pham.

The workshops left Rodriguez wanting more.

“I want to come back next year,” she said.

For more information about the Kent Police Youth Board and how to join, call Judd at 253-856-5883 or e-mail her at sjudd@ci.kent.wa.us.


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