LCC Youth Forum shows off Lynn's good sideOriginally Published on Friday, March 22, 2013
LYNN — It was a night for teens and tweens to show off the city's good side during Lynn Community Coalition's 2nd Annual Lynn Youth Forum.
"We're here to learn what they do," said LCC President Mary Trahan before turning the evening over to representatives of YES, KAYA, Girls Inc., Lynn English High School's JROTC and RawArts.
The Youth Empowerment Success, or YES, program was originally designed as a six-week summer program aimed at high risk youths. The goal was to try and sway them away from gang life, explained Director Tim Ferrari. Over the last eight years the program has evolved to include boys and girls with a focus on character building, academics, good manners and some very cool outings, Ferrari said. There have also been speakers including local and state politicians, firefighters, police officers, school leaders and musicians.
Seventh-graders Jay Rodriguez and John Guzman along with eighth grader Elvis Guerrero each shared poems they had written with Tyrone Hawkins, aka Walnut the Lyrical Genie, who recently conducted a poetry workshop with the kids.
Tiny dancers in drapey gold pants, teenage girls in bright pink tops and a tall boy in a cream color suit brought a little Cambodian culture to the event when they talked about KAYA.
A free youth group for kids aged 13 through 18, KAYA, which means body and character, meets three afternoons a week at the Lynn YMCA, said Kevin Beaube.
"Our mission is to spark the power of youth to generate positive change," he said.
Monica Meas said she became involved in KAYA about three years ago and it's taught her that she is stronger and more capable than she imagined and it's given her an appreciation of her roots. Director Wanntha Sims noted that it isn't only for Khmer kids. She said the program now includes African American and Hispanic teens as well, and everyone works toward the same goals of learning respect, leadership and social skills, civic participation and teamwork.
JROTC members Cynthia Rendon and Karen Mejia wowed the crowd with their routine, called a duel, that they will perform in a national competition in May. JROTC Lt. Col Yessica Rodriguez-Rios called the performance just one part of what the program has to offer. She has been member of the JROTC for four years and is a big fan.
"Without this program I probably wouldn't have joined anything," she said. "I wouldn't be here today because I wouldn't have the courage to come up and talk to you."
The program is academic, teaches cadets about world events, includes a drill team and physical fitness aspect, and will benefit "anyone who's interested in breaking out of their shell," she said.
RawArts participants Kadeem Dalley and Michael Aghahowa and representatives from Girls Inc. also talked up the virtue of their programs. Both offer a place for tweens and teens to fit in, to make a difference, to find themselves and most importantly grow.
"If not for RawArts ... I'd be lost," Aghahowa said.
There were words of warning, however, as well.
Police Lt. Michael Vail was also on hand to talk to adults about Parents360 and to remind them that "you matter because you're mom and dad."
He delivered information on synthetic marijuana, bath salts, a synthetic drug that is illegal in Lynn but still found in many local shops, signs that kids might be on drugs and tips for dealing with it if they are.
"Let them know you disapprove," he said. "Nine out of 10 kids start using drugs and alcohol as teens but if they get early intervention, the don't use."
He also urged parents to listen to their kids, watch what they're doing, who they're with, set rules and enforce them with consequences and most importantly, talk to them.
"There is no wrong way to do it, talk to your kids," he said. "And remember, parents matter."