When Val Siktar puts together an agenda of weekend activities, teen-agers from around Maryland come calling.
Senior program director at the YMCA's Annapolis branch, Siktar played host to more than 65 teens over the weekend, ranging in age from 13 to 19, for the YMCA TeenLeaders Rally at Camp Letts in Edgewater.
Anne Arundel was host to the annual statewide rally, dubbed "EverOn," for the second straight year.
"It's the best-kept secret in the YMCA," Siktar said of the program.
Dancing, games, storytelling and self-esteem workshops are only a few of the highlights.
Joanne Derwin, a junior at Severna Park High, praised the program and thepeople involved.
"You learn about morals and values," she said, "and you meet many compassionate and caring people."
"It's a great way to meet friends, too," said Jo-Tanner Bantum of Talbot County, a junior at Easton High School. "I've met a lot of people and I'm having a really good time."
Besides having a good time, the young men and women got a chance to learn about themselves and their values.
"They learn communication, leadership and career choices," Siktar said. "The kids really change over the weekend; it's incredible what wedo."
The program included self-esteem workshops, videos on career choices, poetry readings, hikes, basketball and quiet time. In one of the workshops, Darius Stanton, youth coordinator of the county's Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs, got everyone to their feet to rap about peace and love, stressing the importance of short-term and long-term goals.
"Don't ever say 'can't' or say you'll try. Instead, do," he urged the audience of about 30.
Stanton was one of 15 leaders from the Mid-Atlantic region -- which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland -- who gave advice and discussed the problems of teen-age life. The leaders' jobs were to boost morale and make sure everyone had a good time.
Following dinner Saturday night,the county-based Peer Scene Theater performed improvisations and discussed such important issues as drugs, sexuality and relationships.
"There was a real need for kids to talk to kids about important issues they confront daily," said Janet Griffin, a health training specialist and director of the 13-member theater group. "I try to create aforum where kids can communicate with their peers in an interesting way."
All teens are invited to participate in this annual program.Call your local YMCA for information on the next Teen Rally.