Students from 15 area schools listen to students speak at the podium.

Area high school students brainstorm to create an even greater Schuylkill County

Students learn the importance of networking and working within their community.

Penn State Schuylkill was host to area high school students at the fifth annual Schuylkill County Youth Summit held on May 15. “The Youth Summit is about engaging and empowering the youth for a better Schuylkill County— there’s a lot of power in the youth,” said Gary Hess, Schuylkill County Commissioner and originator of the annual event.  And the youth demonstrated that they had ideas—very good ones, in fact.

Kelly Austin, chancellor of Penn State Schuylkill, said, "We are pleased to host the annual Youth Summit at Penn State Schuylkill. He continued, "Our campus is an ideal venue for an event in which the youth of today meet to prepare for the progress and prosperity of the future." Underscoring the importance of the vibrancy of the area to the Schuylkill campus, he added, "We value our strategic partners in the community and encourage the future generation to contribute their time and talent to building an even greater Schuylkill County."

Approximately 100 area high school students from 15 different schools gathered in the Schuylkill campus auditorium ready to address quality of life issues that were identified as significant to youth. Three thousand surveyed area high school students selected four issues from a list of 12 that the Youth Summit participants will focus on this year: housing, public safety, education and the environment. Prior to breaking into groups to brainstorm ideas, the students met with 25 community leaders who helped guide them through the process.

In the small group setting, students discussed how best to tackle the issues and spur improvements.  They came up with inventive ideas to be considered for implementation including many with short- and long-term goals.  The idea generation spanned the gamut, such as creating a community center to provide a positive outlet for youth; introducing new recreational activities for the elderly in assisted living and nursing homes; improving athletic fields; reaching out to children’s hospitals; creating new and better recycling programs; and putting out positive messages to keep all students uplifted.

Kay Jones, executive director of Schuylkill County’s Vision, explained, “The Youth Ambassadors meet with the commissioners throughout the school year to discuss county issues.” She noted, “Two adult community groups, a community advisory committee and a special jobs committee, also work to support student ideas.”

Hess said that “The Youth Summit provides an excellent outlet for students to learn about the Schuylkill County area and experience firsthand its potential for future employment.” He added, “It is also a great environment in which to raise a family.” Emphasizing the importance of networking, Hess and others also spoke to the importance of working within your community structure.

Investing in the youth’s innovative ideas regarding issues important to them is paramount to their future and to that of the county. Underscoring this point, Jones said, “The Schuylkill County commissioners are remarkable in their sincere efforts to involve students in the creation of the Schuylkill County they will inherit.”