Youth learn about the ‘Game of Life’

Bailey Wheeler, 13, is no longer afraid to stand up for herself because of what she learned during one of many workshops at a youth conference in Kent.

Rhaquel Abutin

Rhaquel Abutin

Bailey Wheeler, 13, is no longer afraid to stand up for herself because of what she learned during one of many workshops at a youth conference in Kent.

“The people taught us that if you don’t stick to what you believe in than you are just a follower,” Wheeler said. “Being a leader takes courage and a commitment to be true to yourself.”

Wheeler, an eighth-grader at Cedar Heights Middle School, joined more than 200 teenagers who attended one of the two-day Game of Life conferences Dec. 6-7 at the Kent Commons recreational facility. Students discussed and learned about drugs, leadership, the environment, traffic safety, pregnancy and other topics.

“This conference made me think about the kind of life I want for myself and what I can do to get it,” Wheeler said.

The Kent Police Youth Board, comprised of more than 20 students from high schools and middle schools, organized the 25th annual conference. They spoke to teens, talking about how to make educated choices about drugs, alcohol, nutrition, relationships and careers.

“I think the coolest thing about this conference is that people are hearing this advice from people near or at their same age,” said Patrick Pham, executive board member. “They know we understand exactly what they are going through and that we are dealing with the same issues they are.”

The conference hosts teams of middle and high school students from Kent, Renton, Auburn, Maple Valley, Enumclaw, Seattle and Gig Harbor. The focus is on health and wellness for youth.

“I think the issues like gangs, drugs, bullying and alcohol we discuss here are big problems in our high schools,” said Tia Porcincula, youth board member.”These activities get popular and peer pressure sets in, making it really difficult for us. So, I hope that people here will take what we say seriously, follow the message and encourage each other to lead better lives.”

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.

“We get to go to the schools and help them develop their projects,” Pham said. “This is great because this means it won’t be so easy for them to just walk away and not think about what we said.”

Kentwood High seniors, members of the Kent Police Youth Board, helped select the topics and presenters at the conference. The board meets about a dozen times per year and each board member must pledge to not use drugs or alcohol during their time on the board.

“We met and debated about what we felt important issues were to discuss,” Porcincula said. “We decided to address things we personally have struggled against or seen  at our schools.”

Students attending the conference said they heard the message loud and clear.

“This event definitely covered everything I feel people in my school have dealt with,” said Kate Kovaly, a senior at Kent Mountain View Academy. “I think it’s great to get everything out in the open because it creates awareness, which can help create change.”

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

Reach Sarah Kehoe at skehoer@kentreporter.com or 253-872-6600 ext. 5056.

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