The Herald Bulletin

November 9, 2013

Swearing to make a difference

Officials deem city's first teen summit a success

By Traci Moyer
The Herald Bulletin

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.

More than 200 students pre-registered for the event, and it appeared many were also in attendance.

“We want to expose the youth of Madison County to an experience where they can be exposed to events that will motivate them while being socially responsible,” Spriggs-Weatherly said.

Tables representing college opportunities, public agencies and the police department were also available to provide information to the students before the guest speaker, Laymon Hicks, gave a talk.

Judy Streeter, president of Anderson’s Black Expo, was thrilled with the turnout for the event.

“We’ve never done anything on this kind of scale when it comes to a teen summit,” she said. “I’m very pleased with the turnout and the adult volunteers and sponsorship.”

Spriggs-Weatherly said she is planning to have a total of four teen summits by this time next year. She said the next one is scheduled for February, with additional summits planned for May and August — if funds can be raised for the events

“The one in August will be before school starts to get them ready for school,” she said.

Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.