CALN — Nearly 75 students from school districts across Chester County attended the First Annual Chester County Youth Leadership Summit this past Saturday, May 14. The summit was organized by the Coatesville Area School District’s S.P.I.R.I.T (Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together) Group. Student leaders from nine high schools attended the summit, which focused on helping the students come together to identify and resolve issues in their schools and community.
The Summit welcomed inspirational and motivational speaker Florence Johnson, who challenged the students to consider how their leadership and voices could be used to identify and solve issues across the County, Commonwealth, and beyond. The students spent part of the day working in groups discussing everyday problems including bullying and media perceptions. Their findings and solutions will be shared with the Chester County Superintendents in June.
At the conclusion of the event, students were inducted into the Chester County Youth Leadership Council by Senator Andy Dinniman and State Representative Harry Lewis and received a certificate from the State Senate commemorating their induction.
The initiative was sparked by the work the school district has done with the Department of Justice, Mid-Atlantic Equity Center, the Center for Safe Schools, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“This summit highlighted the powerful thinking of young minds who will no doubt be future leaders in our County, State, Nation and across the Globe,” said Superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner. “It helped to empower students to identify and solve problems.”
“The Coatesville Area Senior High School was honored to host this event,” said Coatesville High School Assistant Principal Joseph Macnamara, who served as an advisor for the event along with Assistant Principal Joseph Peleckis. “The event was fun, rewarding, and meaningful for everyone involved,” according to Peleckis.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other students and get their perspective of how they solve problems at their school,” said Coatesville Sophomore Casey Frederick.
Coatesville Sophomore Diondre Cole said the Summit was a great experience. “It seemed that the other students from Chester county share the same concerns as Coatesville students. I’m looking forward to next year’s summit”
The summit ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each high school in the county was invited to send students. Students from the following high schools attended: Coatesville, Great Valley, Kennett Square, Oxford, West Chester East, West Chester Henderson, Rustin, Valley Forge Military Academy, and Technical College High School Pickering.
Coatesville High School’s S.P.I.R.I.T. program, designed at reducing racial tension and focusing on problem solving, will archive information about the summit and the summary of the day’s findings on its website. Summit participants will be invited to participate in some online discussion with the group throughout the year.
“I was so taken with the insights of the students in our SPIRIT group and with their ability to provide clear solutions to complex problems that I wanted to expand the effort to include all Chester County school districts,” Taschner said.
The Chester County Youth Leadership Council will continue to meet each year (the program will likely rotate to a different school district each year), and will continue to work together to provide insights to issues that collectively impact the region’s high schools.