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Months of work from the Youth Council and SPTS certainly paid off at the Monmouth County Youth Wellness Summit on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at Neptune High School. There were free t-shirts, tons of good food and an amazing keynote speaker. For a high school student, these three things always mean a great day.

I was lucky to be one of the more than 140 students to attend the summit. Upon entrance, all student attendees were divided into four groups: two groups of sophomores and two groups of juniors.

20160405_083325In the morning, we entered the auditorium to hear the “Strings from Hope,” a panel discussion of four people with powerful, inspiring stories about their experiences coping with tragedy.

From here, the group parted their separate ways. Some learned about major life transitions, others discovered their worth, but I started off with a yoga session (free pastel- colored yoga mats included!) ran by Lotus Lounge Yoga Services.IMG_9040

I am no yoga-expert, but this session sure made me want to be (downward facing dogs and forward facing rolls are now my personal favorites).

After relaxing and rejuvenating, I met up with all the other students in the auditorium to have a drum session.

Going in to the day, I was not at all expecting to be drumming out my stress, but I’m definitely glad I did. Mike Veny, national mental health speaker, told his inspiring life story about how he got kicked out of several schools and faced his anger issues through drumming.

Then came the food (arguably the best part) and lunchtime “speed dating” icebreakers complete with classic Buzzfeed question like “Do you find the prominent navel on a Teddy Graham unsettling?”

IMG_4256After lunch, I was able to participate in a focus group panel and talk directly to school guidance counselors and teachers. Aside from the food and free yoga mats, this was the highlight of the day for me. This panel allowed my peers and me to talk honestly to school faculty members and give them insight on what it’s like to be a teen today. This was an experience I couldn’t have anywhere else, and I learned a lot from my peers and myself.

The Youth Wellness Summit was an overall awesome experience that taught me knew ways to cope with stress, and hearing the courageous stories from the various speakers showed me that life is too precious not to make the most of it. I’m looking forward to the summit next year!


Julia is a junior student at a Monmouth County area high school. She is a member of the SPTS Youth Council and is an Executive Leader.