MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
The station youth center held its annual Teen Summit seminar here and at Golfland Sun Splash water park in Mesa, Ariz.,.
This was the first year the summit was held in Yuma, which had traditionally taken place at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The summit is designed to provide the teen-aged youth center participants an opportunity to interact and propose changes they would like to see made to the youth center and the air station.
During the first day, the 20 participants met at the youth center for a series of mini workshops covering topics from internet chat room safety and preventing illegal drug use, to a forum on youth center and station changes.
The forums were by far the most popular part of the first day with the teens, said Ann Bodes, youth center program assistant and one of the summit’s coordinators. They want to have a voice and they want to be heard.
The forum provides the teens with that opportunity, said Pat Carson, station youth center director. It shows the teens they do have a voice in what happens at the center.
Some of the changes proposed were adding a door to the teen room to separate it from the open recreation area where the younger patrons congregate, extending the center’s hours of operation and building a skate park on base.
Carson said she thought extending the facility’s hours was a good idea because it would give the young adults more time to be together and get off the streets.
The summit shifted to a more serious focus after the forum, teaching the teens about the dangers of internet predators.
Police officer Alan Ienn, Centennial Middle School resource officer, spoke to the internet-savvy youth about the hidden dangers of social Web sites.
He showed several testimonial videos from victims of internet predators and cyber bullying and covered ways to stay safe while surfing the internet.
Internet crimes are continually increasing throughout the United States, said Ienn. Even Yuma is being targeted by these predators.
The participants watched in awe as the teenagers on the videos described how a friendly internet relationships turned into a nightmare.
One particular video, entitled ‘Julie’s Journey,’ described how a 13-year-old girl ran away from her home for three weeks with a 56-year-old man she met in a chat room. Julie was later found on her way to Reno, Nev., and the man was taken into custody.
It’s scary how the internet can be used to harm people, said Ienn. That’s why it’s important to inform children about the dangers they face when surfing the net.
Parents need to monitor the amount of time their children spend on the internet and what sites they are visiting, he said.
They also need to have their child’s passwords to any sites they use so the parents can know what is being discussed, added Ienn.
The weekend was not all work though, as the students headed to the water park the following day for some fun in the sun.
The teens spent more than five hours shooting down water slides and splashing around in the wave pool.
They had a great time at the park, said Melissa Giboyeaux, child program assistant. They played so much that on the way back they were completely out of energy.
Overall, the summit was a great success, said Carson. Melissa and Ann did an outstanding job putting it together and the teens learned quite a bit.
Giboyeaux said due to the feedback from the teens and the event’s success, she foresees much greater participation during next year’s summit.
The teens are already psyched for the next one, she said.