by Shawn Nowlin
Approximately 30 Roanoke teenagers played basketball, listened to hip-hop music and talked about Marvel films, but it wasn’t all fun and games though. Those same teens also participated in a community teen summit, organized by TAP Acting Home-Based Coordinator Darlene Bannister. High school students Mafiq Jones, D’Angelo Nichols, Saffire Pullens, Daequan Nichols and Sherie Johnson, according to Darlene, were also vital in organizing the summit.
The event, which took place on April 21 at the Countryside Sportsplex behind William Fleming High School, provided an opportunity for teens to have an open dialogue with professionals and receive honest feedback. Topics broached included: teen sexuality, emotional health, self-empowerment and police relations. Haley Toyota, as well as a few private donors, sponsored the event.
Monique Ingram, a Planned Parenthood Human Sexuality Educator, discussed consent and STDs during her allocated time.
“Teen years are difficult, crazy and full of uncertainty and insecurities. They also can be a series of awesome moments when you find out what you’re made of,” she said. “All humans, no matter what their age, should be taught appropriate coping skills and lessons on making healthy, respectful and autonomous choices.”
Instead of giving into their impulses when faced with adversity, Genita Trusclair encouraged the teens to confide in someone they trust. The other team of professionals – John Lewis, Dina Hackley-Hunt, George Warner, Anthony West and Everett Law – did the same.
“They won’t make irrational decisions based on the opinions of others when they do that usually,” Trusclair, a Spiritual Life Coach, said. “I remember being a teenager. These students have to worry about things that never crossed my mind when I was their age.”
According to the Office of Adolescent Health, nearly one in three high school students suffer from depression. In addition to discussing the local resources available, Angela Buckner told personal stories from her past to emphasize the seriousness of despondency to the teens.
“We were all invested in providing an opportunity for Roanoke youth to come together and have authentic, honest and accurate education and conversation about many of the difficult choices and circumstances they experience in today’s world,” she said.
Daequan Nichols, 17, says he left the teen summit with a new perspective.
“Obviously, I knew about the importance of condoms and how to act when dealing with police,” he said. “I didn’t know, however, how deep the topic of peer pressure is though. I’m glad that I came.”
Roanoke native Misty Banks always knew that the moment would one day come when she would have to have “the talk” with her daughter.
“I don’t think we as parents do our children any service when we lie to them,” she said. “The reality of the situation is a teen is much more likely to make a smart decision if they are equipped with the proper knowledge. I am brutally honest when I talk to my daughter and vice versa.”
Darlene believes most teenagers can tell the difference between an adult who truly cares versus one that’s just giving lip service.
“Talking about issues that most people ignore is a great way to gain a teen’s trust. You make anger mad with your success,” she said. “This event was dedicated to the late Tony Reed for his compassion for teens in the community. We used to hold teen summits in the 90s regularly. I plan on doing more in the future.”