"It starts with YOU! What are you going to do with your life’s experiences? I want you to do that thing. I want you to be GREAT!” - MelRo Potter
The second annual Youth Empowerment Summit was a GREAT SUCCESS! The Summit kicked off on Tuesday evening with Liliana Vega, of UC Davis, leading a discussion on the importance of acknowledging, recognizing, and respecting youth identities. Then, on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, more than 200 people gathered from across the country to break down barriers, collaborate, learn and create a better tomorrow for our youth to RISE and THRIVE, with the Youth Empowerment Summit playlist playing, compiled of songs recommended by Summit speakers and planning committee members.
Throughout the day, the In the morning, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Susan Salcido’s, moving welcome address shared about the importance of listening to youth, then led everyone into the Youth Panel, where Sky, Blanca, and Celina shared stories about overcoming challenges to succeed in school. Their inspiring stories highlighted people in their lives who have been instrumental in providing inspiration, confidence, and hope for the future, and each of them shared what the community can do to better support youth. Their message to the audience was how important it is to let youth know how to find resources so they can lift themselves up and get help when they need it.
After the youth panel, Dr. Steve Perry offered solutions to challenges we face when working with youth and pressed attendees to take the extra time to dig deeper, to invest in youth, and to help them invest in themselves.
Attendees then broke into morning workshops in five different learning tracks: Healing Practices, Positive Spaces, Mental Wellness, Human Trafficking, and Beyond High School. Kelechi Ubozoh spoke directly to youth about her journey of healing and lessons learned along the way, while Carissa Phelps told her story about Runaway Girl and how she got out of juvenal hall and into the justice system as an attorney.
After lunch, MelRo shared her journey, “From Trauma to a Triumphant Life,” telling attendees that, “our past experiences do not define us,” and “our scars make us beautiful.” She made a choice to heal herself to not become like the people who hurt her because, “we repeat what we don’t repair.” And she is proud that she has not becoming like the people who hurt her! She identified her “WHY” and used it to pick herself up over and over again. In parting she stated, “It starts with YOU! What are you going to do with your life’s experiences? I want you to do that thing. I want you to be GREAT!”
The afternoon sessions featured an additional five simultaneous workshops on Transforming How Kids See Themselves with Donovan Taylor Hall, Leveraging Technology for Wellness, by Help@Hand staff, Psychological First Aid & Self Care with the founders of Santa Barbara Response Network, Jina Carvalho and Anthony Rodriguez, and a collaborative effort by Alex Spiess, Christina Lomeli, and Quinn Rioz on Supportive Services available on College Campuses.
Coming together at the end of the day, attendees joined Dr. Salcido for a discussion on takeaways from the day and next steps, highlighting that youth thrive off hope and positive reinforcement. The fresh perspectives and growth mindset of the attendees was absolutely powerful!
What Can You Do?
- Help improve access to resources. Throughout the Summit, we heard that youth need an easier way to learn about and access resources available to them. Please click here to take a short survey about where and how you learn about resources and what can be done to improve it.
- Watch and Share Summit Presentations. Recorded Summit presentations will be available online in the next few weeks.
- Access and Share Resources. Click here to learn about, access, and share community resources.
Special Thanks To
Just Communities, Viviana Marsano, and Ana Chaidez for translation and interpretation services
Each and every speaker, facilitator, and mental health support team member
Thank you for your commitment to empowering youth to Rise and Thrive!
Thank You 2021 Planning Committee!
Aha! Allan Hancock College Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley Santa Barbara County BeWell Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services Santa Barbara County Education Office Santa Barbara City College Soraya Ceballos Our County. Our Kids. UC Davis