ANDERSON, Ind. — Alicia O’Neal did not appear to be nervous as she sat at a crowded table inside the high school cafeteria.
“I think so far we are going to have a lot of fun,” said the well-composed O’Neal, 17. She's a senior at Anderson Preparatory Academy.
About 100 students gathered in the Anderson High School cafeteria on Saturday evening to eat ice cream and hang out with their friends for the first Black Expo Teen Summit in the city.
O’Neal was asked to provide the icebreakers for the summit and she did not hesitate to agree.
“I know most of the people here,” she said with a smile.
But as more and more students continued to file into the room, O’Neal knew her work would be cut out for her.
She was not the only one.
“It’s a whole lot of things crunched into one,” said Joy Spriggs-Weatherly, coordinator for the Black Expo Teen Summit.
The idea of a teen summit was a vision of Spriggs-Weatherly, who moved to Anderson this summer, has had for awhile.
“I would love to see the room totally packed,” she said looking out over the tables filling up with students.
Spriggs-Weatherly said the cost for the summit was about $4,000, and thanks to the generosity of local businesses, students enjoyed music, food and socializing with their friends in the safety of the school.
“I explained it and they gave,” she said of the donations.
Middle and high school students have to deal with a variety of negative influences including drugs, violence, alcohol and teen pregnancies, according to event planners. The summit was created to bring awareness to youth about these dangers and discourage violence as a way to deal with everyday stresses.
"They are going to take an oath that they are going to make a difference," Spriggs- Weatherly said.