Youth Summit 2023

February 1, 2023

PF! Hosts 2023 Youth Summit

In January, 120 students from 11 schools across Hamilton, Owen, Clermont, and Butler counties attended PreventionFIRST!’s 2023 Youth Summit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

The event was sponsored by:

● Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board

● Charles H. Dater Foundation

● Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services

● Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation Inc.

To kick off the event, students were welcomed by PF! President and CEO, Nicole Schiesler and Linda Gallagher, the Vice President of Mental Health and Addiction Services at Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

The first activity on the agenda was focus groups. PF! staff members sat down with groups of students and asked them questions to gain a better understanding of current mental health and substance use trends in local schools.

Up next was keynote speaker Javier Sanchez who captivated students with his motivating speech. Sanchez emphasized the importance of youth empowerment by explaining that students have the power to change their lives and the lives of others through the choices they make.

Students were then able to get up and active by completing a scavenger hunt. Groups of students set off to explore the zoo and were tasked with finding certain exhibits and coming up with a creative message about that animal based on the positive messages they had heard throughout the day.

The final activity of the day involved creating action plans. Students were asked to think about changes they wanted to make in their schools, possibly related to mental health, substance use, or bullying. Students worked together to identify these changes and came up with action plans on how they could be implemented.

Students could then take it one step further and apply for a mini grant provided by PreventionFIRST! Schools who apply for this mini grant have the opportunity to receive funding to plan and implement a youth-led project around alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention in their schools and communities.

Three schools applied for and received mini grant funding. Ideas for each schools projects include:

● Creation of a relaxation room in the school where students can go if they are feeling stressed or anxious

● New mural in school hallway with positive words of affirmation

● Making and selling bracelets, with the proceeds going to students at their school affected by homelessness

PF! Program Coordinator and lead planner of the event Ryley Jones stated that, “the Youth Summit gave students the opportunity to use their voice and to engage with community leaders and their peers to discuss issues regarding mentalhealth and substance use”.

Students had many positive things to say about the youth summit. One student stated, “I loved this event because it created a safe space where I could express my feelings and challenges”.