The recently concluded Tazewell County Teen Conference was attended by about 600 junior high and high school students. During the event, kids were taught a very important lesson on good-decision making.
At the Performing Arts Center at Illinois Central College, presenter Steve Arends caught everybody’s attention. Steve is himself a victim of a crash that affected his brain.
The early part of the program focused on Steve’s accident that also killed his twin brother in 2003 at Ford County. After showing graphic images and real photos of the incident, Arends only had a short message for the audience. “You all have opportunities at your disposal now,” he said. “I just don’t want you to screw that up. If you use every opportunity and embrace it, you guys can really make a great thing out of your life.”
Steve is now a part of the Tazewell County program that aims to make students aware of the fatal consequences of driving under the influence as well as the dangers of using drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products.
Now on its 23rd year, event coordinator Sara Sparkman says they focus on immersing kids on workshops that help them practice their skills on decision-making. They also aim to help kids communicate well and promote the value of working as a team. “It started with grant funding from HIV-Aids and has developed into more of a leadership day. The topics are broad. But if we can help one kid, we’ve done good.”
The Tazewell County initiative is continually recruiting students to form part of the Tazewell County Youth Board wherein the members become responsible in planning workshops and activities for co-students from different schools in their area. They are also asked to take a pledge of keeping themselves safe and away from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.