East Peoria, Ill. – Hundreds of junior high and high school students, 549 to be exact, came together to learn skills that’ll help them become the leaders of tomorrow.
Camryn Picken, Tazewell County Youth Board member, said bringing so many students together can take them out of their comfort zones and make them more willing to try different things and encounter new experiences.
“There are so many people like them here and I think collaborating and coming together can really take you from that level you’re on now to that next level,” Picken said.
The 31st Tazewell County Teen Conference, Thursday, was about elevating students to that next level.
The event, which was held at Illinois Central College, combined workshops, seminars, speakers and even provided financial advice that helped returning students like Layne Kaufman learn to budget.
“The seminars that I got to go to help you learn how to save money in college, so that’ll definitely help in my future,” Kaufman said.
One of the most important lessons taught this year came from keynote speaker Steve Troglio, who spoke on learning to value yourself.
“[I’m] talking to kids about their self-esteem, their self-worth, and their value because they live in a society that really doesn’t value them much,” Troglio said.
Troglio said that when teens feel supported, they’re able to aim higher for their future.
“Kids today … they’re not being encouraged,” Troglio said. “They’re not being challenged. They’re being underestimated and therefore they back away. I’m all for kids pressing on.”
He helps them press on by reminding them of two things.
“That they’re valuable and that they can make a difference,” Troglio said.
This year’s conference saw an increase in attendance from high school students. Coordinators said they want to build off of the sessions they offer to make sure they have a bigger turnout next year.