Teen sees community as role model source

River Hill sophomore to lead conferences aiming to explore issues, ideas

April 13, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

People often say children need role models other than their parents and teachers. But where are they supposed to find them?

River Hill High School sophomore Shelby Yu has taken it upon herself to bring role models to the kids.

Using a grant she obtained from the Governor's Office on Service and Volunteerism, Shelby is the organizer and host of Howard County's first student-led conference tonight at the Meeting House in Oakland Mills.

Shelby, 15, established the Howard County Student Conferences to let teen-agers from across the county meet with notable community members and others, discuss important topics and share ideas.

"I said that we as teen-agers and as the future of the community should have role models of people in the community," she said, "so that we can learn how we, ourselves, can shape the community."

Those thoughts were enough to persuade the office of volunteerism to grant Shelby about $600 to be host of up to three conferences.

Tonight's conference, "Solutions to Conflicts," will begin at 7: 15 at the Meeting House, 5885 Robert Oliver Place.

The speaker will be former Washington Post columnist turned peace activist Colman McCarthy, who will give a 40-minute lecture on violence in schools and how to prevent it.

"He has had a lot of experience working with kids, and he's very passionate about his topics," Shelby said.

After McCarthy's talk, students are to break into three workshop groups.

"The workshops are student-led, too," Shelby said, though she has invited several adults to attend the conference and be facilitators during the workshops. The topics are school, community and national issues.

Students participating in the school issues workshop will debate a topic they consider relevant. McCarthy will give students suggestions and feedback, but they will come up with solutions.

Those participating in the community issues workshop will benefit from McCarthy's suggestions about how young people can become involved in their communities. McCarthy will direct a discussion about standardized testing in the national issues workshop.

Shelby said she is expecting more than 80 students and adults to attend.

"We've generated a lot of interest in the community," she said.

The next two conferences will be held during the next school year, Shelby said, and one will feature a poet from Gambia, who has used his poetry to re-awaken the culture in his country.

"He can come in and talk to students about the art of poetry, and how writing and the arts can make a difference in the community," she said. "Students can bring in their poetry and then share their poetry with others and get some comments from the poet so they can learn more."

She said she hopes others will help fund future conferences so she or other students will be able to be host of a conference at least every three months.

"I'm hoping that we can reach out to really a large amount of students in the community," Shelby said. "And that we can get in a lot of speakers and different topics so that each student can find something that interests them."

To learn more about the conferences, send e-mail to: Student Conferences@yahoo.com.

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