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At-Risk youth target of Depot conference

Inspired by inspiration, Thomson High School Graduation Coach Pat Farner planned a Youth Preparing for Choices and Change Conference that was held at the Depot last Wednesday.

Last October, Ms. Farner and Roger Williams, the graduation coach for Crossroads Learning Center, attended a training held in Macon for the graduation coach position.

"For us, the conference was upbeat and inspirational," she said. "At that time, I thought it would be great to sponsor a similar conference for our students."

Each of the approximately 140 students in the graduation coach caseload from Crossroads and Thomson High was invited, and approximately 90 attended the conference, which was designated a field trip by the high school principals.

Feature speaker for the conference was Julie Moore, the Graduation Specialist for the Georgia Department of Education. Ms. Moore encouraged the students to achieve their goals through "the three P's: Purpose, Persistence and Principle." During her speech, Ms. Moore shared her life story of growing up in a poor, single-parent home and heading down the wrong path.

"I didn't care about school," she said. "And now I'm working along side people who graduated from Harvard."

"I like her," said Whitley Brown, a junior. "I liked the three P's because they have different meaning to me now. She gave a different perspective."

The Thomson High Renaissance Class, under the direction of Media Specialist Tammy Kay Brunson, gave a presentation and mini dramas on Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

The presentation encouraged the students to center their life around principles, such as hard work, loyalty, honesty, etc., rather than ineffective things such as work, hobbies or friends.

"Every decision you make is making you," Ms. Brunson reiterated.

The students were divided into groups for break-out sessions that were taught by both graduation coaches, Karen Saltzman, the executive director of Partners for Success, Steve Ebonroth, the assistant manager of Wal-Mart, LaQaile Jones, a representative of Augusta Technical Institute, Richard Williams, the Thomson High counselor, Bill Beckum, THS apprentice coordinator and Petty Officer Aaron Pyle, a U.S. Navy Recruiter.

Ten students shared their own personal success stories and then Judge Brett Hammond offered closing remarks.

"It made me feel like I want to achieve. I want to make it. I think it'll help a lot of people," Angela Ballard, a junior, said. "When I first came, I thought it would be boring, and I would go to sleep. But as the time went on, I got into it."

Partners for Success sponsored the convention with funding and staffing. Coca-Cola provided t-shirts and beverages for each student.

Web posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007

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