By William Tauro
Over 300 Teens attended the Somerville Youth Peace Conference 2016 this past Saturday to Address Mental Health, Addiction, Police-Youth Relations, and Other Issues
The Somerville Youth Peace Conference was hosed by over 300+ Somerville teens and Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Somerville Public Schools, and the City of Somerville
The event took place at the East Somerville Community School that’s located at 50 Cross Street in Somerville.
The conference, Back From the Future featured original performances by Somerville teens based on their own lives, workshops, and a services fair, while also highlighting the growth of Somerville over the past decade.
Attendees shared their own experiences in interactive breakout sessions facilitated by youth. The conference, presented by the Center for Teen Empowerment, Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Somerville Public Schools, and the City of Somerville examined teen violence, substance abuse, social media, bullying and other issues, with a special focus on destigmatizing mental health.
Mayor Joseph Curtatone and other elected officials joined the mostly youth audience to listen to teens’ stories and ideas.
Somerville Speaks breakout sessions followed the stage presentation and kicked off the City’s #SomervilleSpeaks campaign, which seeks to destigmatize depression and other mental health issues, as well as teach coping skills.
The campaign included a youth Mental Wellness Ambassador program and youth-led sessions to increase awareness and conversation around mental wellness and health.
Inspiration for the Conference came from Teen Empowerment Boston’s annual Youth Peace Conference, which began in 1993 as a way to bring together Boston teens to help solve the epidemic of gang violence occurring at the time. That first conference produced a lasting truce among five rival gangs and set the stage for a dramatic improvement in the lives of thousands of youth.
The Conference was open to the public. Tickets were $2 in advance, and $3 and at the door. More than a dozen groups partnered with Teen Empowerment and the City to make the event a success.
Founded in 1992, The Center for Teen Empowerment, Inc. (TE) empowers youth and adults as agents of positive individual, institutional, and social change. Each year, TE youth conduct over 150 initiatives involving some 6,000 youth and adults. For more information, visit http://www.teenempowerment.org.