The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 10, 2012

VIDEO | Local high schoolers flex leadership skills at youth seminar

JOHNSTOWN — Area high school students are leading the way to a brighter future.

As a way to promote leadership potential in youth, The Tribune-Democrat, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, AmeriCorps-Pennsylvania Mountain Service Corps, Windber Area School District and Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley Inc. hosted a leadership seminar Wednesday at the Heritage Discovery Center.

The main objective was to help high school students become better problem-solvers, innovators, collaborators and communicators, while also brainstorming ideas on ways to better the community.

“The students were chosen by their schools based on their leadership potential,” said Angie Berzonski, program and communications officer with the Community Foundation. “This gives them an opportunity to think regionally more than just focusing on their own school district.”

Students from Bishop Carroll, Bishop McCort, Central Cambria, Conemaugh Township Area, Conemaugh Valley, Ferndale Area, Forest Hills, Greater Johnstown, Johnstown Christian, Portage Area, Richland, Westmont Hilltop and Windber Area participated in the event with each school sending four sophomores, four juniors and one senior.

Business and community leaders served as facilitators and worked in small groups with the students where they discussed topics such as community issues, leadership/service, peer pressure, education/employment and resources/support.

Afterward, the students presented their findings to the group.

Collin Imler, a senior at Bishop McCort Catholic High School, said being a part of the seminar was an amazing opportunity.

“I met a lot of great people,” he said.

His group focused on community issues and chose the saying, “highlight the good,” and discussed the importance of youth groups and volunteerism.

“There’s lots of good going on but you don’t always hear about it,” Collin said.

Abby Walker said meeting new people and hearing their thoughts on the Johnstown area was interesting and a good experience.

“It’s an opportunity to get our opinions out and see how we as a younger generation can help,” said the Central Cambria High School junior. “I think we have a better understanding of what we’ll be faced with when we are out there in the world by ourselves.”

Michelle Tokarsky, managing member at Silverman, Tokarsky, Forman & Hill, said she got the impression after talking with her group that they welcome the idea of collaborating with students from other districts to share ideas and concerns.

“We have a great group of kids here,” she said. “You think you know kids, but you gain insight if you really listen.”

It’s the goal of seminar organizers to see this event continue so more young people’s voices can be heard.

“These students are our future and we have to nurture that and keep moving forward and all work together,” Berzonski said.

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