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Workshops help youth face critical issues

PAUL SMITHS - Youth from Essex County joined youth from St. Lawrence County and Franklin County at Paul Smith's College for a day of learning about leadership, teamwork and choices.

Students from Elizabethtown, Crown Point, Willsboro, and Ticonderoga participated in a series of workshops centered around performance arts like theatre and filmmaking for use in addressing critical youth issues.

The keynote speaker, Frank Pastizzo, is a well-known inspirational speaker and youth leader. He conducted workshops on the topic of leadership; what leaders do and how they affect other people around them.

Erika Stadtlander, author of many children's books and plays and a veteran theatre director, provided workshops on utilizing theatre as a vehicle for talking about important youth issues. The Essex County Youth Bureau was able to secure a grant for the theatre workshop.

"The Youth Bureau has been conducting youth surveys for more than 10 years and the surveys reveal that Essex County underage drinking rates are unacceptably high," said Scot Hurlburt of the Essex County Youth Bureau.

"We hope that by utilizing a theatre format we can have another opportunity to speak with young people and to provide youth with a platform for expressing their feelings about the issue," he added.

Filmmaker James Valastro offered a workshop on media messages and techniques of filmmaking. The Ticonderoga youth group produced a series of short films that respond to manufacturers that target youth such as alcohol and cigarette manufacturers. The conference also featured a Teambuilding workshop that was facilitated by Scot Hurlburt and co-facilitated by the Ticonderoga youth group.

Planning has been underway to field a larger, Essex County specific youth conference in 2009.

"We hope that youth leave the conference inspired to bring back to their community what they learned here," said conference organizer Doug Terbeek, executive director of the Prevention Team.

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