The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has been chosen as the site of the 2009 Pennsylvania Independent Living Youth Retreat. Nearly 140 youth and 90 staff from every region in the state are expected to attend the event, which is being held this week. This year’s theme is Determine, Realize, Educate, Achieve and Motivate (DREAM).
The Youth Retreat is being presented by the University of Pittsburgh Child Welfare Training Program, and is being sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) The retreat’s major objectives are to provide youth leadership development and enhanced transition skills for young people ages 16-21 who are or who have been in substitute care or who were adopted after age 16. Youth and staff attend this event at no cost through a grant provided by OCYF. All participants will be staying in Pitt-Johnstown’s freshman residence halls and will be eating all of their meals in the campus dining hall.
The week will include large- and small-group classes that encourage youth to focus on their dreams and set goals and find ways to achieve them by developing a plan for their future; exploring educational and career options; making connections to others and finding a philosophy to guide their lives, especially as they face the opportunities and challenges of transition to adult lives. Attendees will also have an opportunity to participate in activity sessions, including sports and recreational programs, that will be held across the Pitt-Johnstown campus at locations including the Adirondack Shelter, Zamias Aquatic Center and the basketball and volleyball courts.
Michael Robinson, assistant regional director of the Philadelphia office of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and Jennifer Kyung, a member of the Governor’s Cabinet for African-American Affairs, will lead sessions on Monday evening entitled “For Men Only” and “For Women Only.” The sessions are designed to help youth understand the importance of having dreams, setting realistic goals, and understanding the resources available to attain those aspirations.
On Wednesday, July 15, national consultant and trainer Michael Sanders will conduct a workshop entitled, “Hip Hop…A Tool for Engaging Youth.” Referred to as an “edutainer,” for his ability to blend education and entertainment for maximum learning and fun, Mr. Sanders has spent nearly 20 years working with teens and their families. He travels extensively motivating teens, inspiring families and educating professionals to be and do their best. In his workshop, Mr. Sanders will be empowering youth to convey their messages in a unique way and move forward with their dreams.
Thursday’s events include a banquet where celebrated author and international speaker Dr. Jaiya John will deliver the keynote address. Dr. John is founder and executive director of “Soul Water Rising,” a global human relations mission founded in 2001. He has spoken to more than 100,000 people around the world on human relations issues, and has appeared on CNN, BET, Fox News, and National Public Radio. During his presentation, Dr. John will discuss his personal story, motivating youth to realize their individual potential.
Additional information on the program is available by contacting Dr. Helen Cahalane from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work’s Child Welfare Education and Research Programs at (412) 624-6386 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Independent Living Youth Retreat is one of more than a dozen youth-based conferences that will be taking up residence on the Pitt-Johnstown campus this summer. According to Joyce Radovanic, director of conference services at Pitt-Johnstown, “More than 3,500 young people will enter our doors this year as part of our summer conference season. With our many facilities, including the Zamias Aquatic Center, Adirondack Shelter, Sports Center, and our hiking and nature trails Pitt-Johnstown is ideally suited to serve as a host for youth conferences. Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown’s close proximity to attractions including the Flight 93 Memorial and the Johnstown Flood Museum makes us an appealing option to both local and national youth organizations.”
Later this summer groups including the Universal Cheerleaders Association, with approximately 400 attendees, and Youth Conference Ministries, with approximately 500 attendees, will be holding conferences on the Pitt-Johnstown campus. The conference season at Pitt-Johnstown is not limited to youth conferences. Groups including the North American Vegetarian Society and the Korean Seventh Day Adventists, which include attendees of all ages, have chosen Pitt-Johnstown as their conference site for the past several years.