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Yankees captain and shortstop, Derek Jeter, hosted a youth summit to promote social change and healthy lifestyles at his Turn 2 Foundation's 2011 Jeter's Leaders Leadership Conference at the University of Tampa. He was joined by former Yankees Tino Martinez and Gerald Williams, Super Bowl champion from the Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Kalamazoo mayor Bobby Hopewell, and best-selling author and activist Sister Souljah in a panel discussion addressing adversity and tenacity in achieving social, academic and career goals.
The bi-annual conference, themed "Social Change: Today's Challenges, Tomorrow's Solutions," brought together approximately 250 high school students from across the country who share a common goal to make a positive change in their schools and communities. The event featured eight workshops created and presented by the New York and Kalamazoo Jeter's Leaders based on topics they feel are most affecting teens in today's ever-changing society. Additionally, the three-day event included a variety of team building activities and special events that were educational, motivational and entertaining for the students as they continue through high school and prepare to enter college. Over the course of the week, the students experienced college life by staying in dorms on campus, eating in the cafeteria, and simulated the academic side of college life by attending workshops.
The event was kicked off in style with a welcoming ceremony featuring Martinez, a recent graduate of the University of Tampa and university president Dr. Ronald L. Vaughn.
A highlight that truly exemplifies the spirit of the conference was the community service project at St. Peter Claver Catholic School, the oldest African-American Catholic school in Florida. The Turn 2 Foundation worked with a local organization, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, to till soil, plant flowers, shrubs and trees, install garden fixtures and benches and stain picnic tables. The effort helped to motivate the elementary school's participation in continuing to refurbish the property. The project included a mentoring component: The high school students paired up with the elementary school students from St. Peter Claver to foster a spirit of sharing and community spirit. Each attending group painted a flower pot with motivational messages to inspire incoming students.
The Jeter's Leaders program was designed to promote healthy lifestyles, academic achievement, leadership development and social change activism among high school students. The Jeter's Leaders serve as ambassadors for Derek Jeter in their communities.
The theme for the 2008 Jeter's Leaders Conference was "Social Change: Being Aware of Self and Surroundings." The conference was held at the University of Texas at Arlington from August 2-5. Jeter's Leaders displayed the leadership skills they work on throughout the year by speaking out on topics that affect teens across the country as well as issues that matter to them personally. The Leaders worked for 11 months planning for this event which proved to be a huge success and the highlight of the year.
The pre-conference activities started off with an orientation/team-building activity. The Jeter's Leaders were very anxious to see one another and appreciated the team-building events because they brought everyone together. This activity was a great way for everyone to get reacquainted and to meet the newly inducted Leaders. Here is what some Jeter's Leaders had to say:
The next activity was a campus tour of the host location, the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). The campus was beautiful in its design and modernity. The tour allowed the Leaders to become educated about the location of buildings and facilities that would be used for the conference as well as gain further insight about UTA's options for higher education.
On Saturday, Aug. 2, the conference officially commenced with the welcome ceremony followed by the kickoff party that evening. During the welcome ceremony, the attending leadership groups and the Jeter's Leaders were greeted by former Leader Jehan Atherton (New York Alumnus), Kalamazoo Jeter's Leaders' President Karaminka Brown and New York Jeter's Leaders' Co-President Darlene Reid. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt represented the University of Texas at Arlington and warmly welcomed the entire group to his "educational home."
Excitement was in the air as the group moved on to the kickoff party. The party gave the Leaders a chance to take a break from the workshop preparations and have a little fun with their guests. This was a great way for the Jeter's Leaders to get to know the conference attendees before the workshops began.
The workshop topics chosen for the conference identified areas that the Leaders believe are critical to the youth of today. The topics -- College Readiness, Community Dynamics, Financial Literacy, Global Impact, Healthy Lifestyles, Healthy Relationships, Professional Development and Teens & the Media -- allowed the Leaders to present issues most important and relevant to teens from a teen perspective. Each workshop group included Leaders from Kalamazoo and New York who did extensive research, planning and coordination throughout the year. At times, workshop preparation was challenging due to the distance between group members. The Leaders interacted only by phone and e-mail prior to meeting in Texas. Having two separate groups working on one topic is difficult enough -- having those groups apart for so long makes it an even tougher task. In the end, the Leaders knew they had a job to do and they came together to make sure it was done. Here is what some Jeter's Leaders had to say about the end product:
Aug. 4. was the first day of the workshops, the event which the Jeter's Leaders had been working so diligently on for the past year. At around 9 a.m., all eight workshops kicked off with their first presentation. The visiting groups responded enthusiastically. By the end of the three workshop sessions that afternoon, the Leaders debated who their best audience was, while the visiting groups debated which workshop was the best in regard to content and exhibition.
For almost every Jeter's Leader presenter, his or her first workshop seemed to be unparalleled. This may be due to the high expectations they had set for themselves and finally having the opportunity to demonstrate what their hard work, research, dedication and preparation were meant for -- to reinforce the mission statement of the program and empower their peers to take initiative in making a difference within their communities.
To wind down from the first day of workshops, the conference had an outdoor movie night for the enjoyment of everyone in attendance. The Great Debaters starring Denzel Washington was the movie selected and went perfectly with the social change theme of the conference. The movie really showed what happens when dedicated teens put their minds together to accomplish something big.
The second day of the conference started much like the first. The Leaders presented their eight workshops with the attendees rotating among them to take part in all eight. Following the day's workshops, the attendees were treated to a private screening of the inspiring and educational documentary, I Won't Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom, starring J Records recording artist Mario Barrett. These documentaries demonstrated how drugs can affect the person taking them as well as the impact drug use has on the user's family and loved ones. Despite Mario's mom, Shawn's, blatant denial of her addiction to heroin in the beginning, her story fortunately resulted in recognition and her getting help. This was the first of two events that day that focused specifically on the detrimental effects of drugs and alcohol, an essential component of the Jeter's Leaders' mission.
The second event was the Substance Abuse Education Fair. The presentations, all under the umbrella of substance abuse, included hands-on, interactive exhibits that dealt with a variety of topics. There were eight exhibits: The Teenage Brain, Drugs and Decision Making: Intersections on the Development Highway; Dangers of Alcohol and Risk-taking Behavior; Peers Influence Peers Partnership/Peers Partnership Filming; Drunken Brain Exhibit; Welcome to Roger's Party; Alcohol Can Harm Your Heart; The Cigarette Smoking Machine; and The Simulated Impaired Driving Experience (SIDNE).
Some exhibits simulated what would happen to a specific body part if one were to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. For example, "The Drunken Brain," an excellent exhibit produced by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's (NIAAA) Dr. Dennis Twombly, described how alcohol affects different areas of the brain. The exhibit, "Dangers of Alcohol and Risk Taking Behavior" showed the reality of the heightened sense of invincibility that can overcome a person under the influence of alcohol. The various graphic images of car accidents and personal experience shared by Eulala Chapman Echols, an injury prevention coordinator at the Trauma Network, hit home and were definitely an eye opener.
The next and final day of the conference brought the culmination of the Leaders' workshop presentations. After an energizing final presentation by each group, all attendees reported to the theater for the conference finale -- the Teen Summit. The Teen Summit began with a candid speech by Josh Hamilton, All-Star center fielder of the Texas Rangers, who has battled a severe addiction to drugs and alcohol throughout his professional career. Hamilton spoke about his life experiences and how they have shaped who he has become. This was a truly inspiring story of struggle and hope. Hamilton then turned it over to the guy that makes this all possible -- the host of the Teen Summit, none other than the captain of the New York Yankees and founder of the Turn 2 Foundation, Derek Jeter.
Derek addressed the group, welcoming and thanking them for coming to the conference. He also told the Leaders how proud he was of them and how important what they were doing was to their communities and those of the attending groups. After handing the duties over to Derek, Josh Hamilton stayed around to take part in the panel discussion. The remainder of the panel was composed of Mayor of Arlington, Dr. Robert Cluck; Vice President for Student Affairs for the University of Texas at Arlington, Dr. Frank Lamas; and Specialty Markets Vice President for AIG Commercial Insurance, Denise Masella. The panel also included members from the New York and Kalamazoo Jeter's Leaders Program. The panelists spoke about the importance of not only refraining from drugs and alcohol and being a leader but also about their inspirations, temptations and ultimate triumph. The audience was free to ask questions and the panel thoughtfully answered them all. The Teen Summit was not only beneficial on an educational level but was a fun experience that everyone truly enjoyed, further increasing its impact.
As the 2008 Jeter's Leaders Leadership Conference came to a close, everyone began to reminisce about the conference events and looked forward to future conferences. "So what was your favorite workshop?" "Did you drive in the drunk-driver car simulation?" "Who was your best crowd?" "Can you believe Mario's mom?!" These were a few among the many questions that one could hear as the invited groups said their goodbyes and departed for home following the Teen Summit.
For the Leaders, however, the day did not end there. After a quick break, the Leaders were off to the Rangers-Yankees game later that night at The Ballpark in Arlington. It was a truly unforgettable experience. The Jeter's Leaders wore their jerseys proudly and marched through the halls of the Rangers' stadium rooting for the Yankees all night.
The conference was a tremendous success. The Leaders worked extremely hard, and it showed. The topics, presentations and discussions got everyone thinking and talking, and definitely achieved the goal of creating awareness while empowering youth to make a difference in their communities. It was a tremendous learning and growing experience for all involved. The Leaders would like to congratulate each other on a job well done and thank the staff for guiding them and showing them the true meaning of teamwork.
The week spent in Texas turned out to be the hottest week of the summer in Arlington. Some said it was so hot because the Jeter's Leaders set it on fire!
Since its launch in 1996, the Turn 2 Foundation has awarded more than $19 million in grants.