SRJC Youth Summit highlights community opportunities

Claire Tillinghast, Staff Writer

High school students, SRJC students and teachers gathered to share their passions and ideas for improving their community at the first High School Youth Summit, held March 5 in SRJC’s Bertolini Student Center.

Students for Sustainable Community member Cameron Williams said the goal of the event was “to educate and inspire youth coming from high school to college to be involved in environment and community efforts.”

The event encouraged high school students from schools around Sonoma County to volunteer, engage, form connections and realize ideas in their communities. It gave high school students the chance to talk to other high school students and discuss their projects and community involvement, while giving them ideas on how to better implement their goals. In addition, it helped provide students with opportunities that will make them more successful with college applications and scholarships. By uniting people with a common purpose, the Youth Summit brought to light ways in which students can be successful later in life and how the community can be improved as a whole.

Jessica Jones, president of SSC, and Ivan Chang, member of the community advisory board, explained to the audience that the Youth Summit was born from the same ideas and passions that fueled neighborhood summits, which aim to improve partnerships between city government and community organizations. The mission of the youth summit was to provide high school students with the resources and connections they need to implement their projects in the community. Nonprofits, neighborhood groups and student coalitions discussed a common vision: how can we make our community a better place to live?

Following the opening speech, a panel of students from different high schools helped bring awareness to the projects of local high school students and provided information on how to make outreach programs more effective. Sofia Rodriguez, a representative from the Piner High School Volunteer Club explained that her club worked to help with environmental issues by taking on projects such as trash cleanup at Spring Lake. Students also created tutorial groups for children with English as their second language. Other clubs included “Bike Monkey,” a student group that sets up local cycling events along with raising money for local schools and charities and an environmental club whose current goal is to create a sustainable community garden at Montgomery High School.

Hector Iturbe spoke about how he founded Elsie Allen High School’s Scholar Athlete Club to inform high school students about important college prerequisites, like SATs, and put them on the road to college by senior year.

Following the student panel was social media consultant Kerry Rego, whose primary goal was to explain the positive and negative aspects of social media. Rego described many positive influences of social media. “It’s instantaneous, it’s fast and it’s educational,” Rego said.

She also illustrated negative aspects of social media, and said that students should not be fooled by the “https” for supposed secure browsing. “It’s public,” she said. “The word ‘privacy’ I actually want you to forget. It doesn’t exist.” The government requires that Internet service providers save your records for minimum of two years, meaning that even if you delete your Internet history, that data is still saved somewhere.

“That conversation you’re having on Facebook, I want you to pretend like it’s a conversation you’re having in the middle of Safeway,” Rego said.

After the speech, several Youtube videos concerning environmental change and awareness were displayed on a projector screen. One of the videos, “Drips,” made by SRJC students Cameron Williams and Zac Illingworth, said that Americans use 21 billion gallons of water per day. By installing water-saving faucets and repairing leaks, 35 percent of water used daily could be saved. The 35 percent saved amounts to 600 million gallons of water every day. The video showed the kind of self-starting tactics needed to build community awareness about issues concerning students.

Next, speaker Lisceth Cruz from UC Davis gave students advice on writing personal statements for college applications and applying for scholarships. She discussed the ethics and moral standards looked for in student applications. Cruz stressed that employers and colleges around the nation look to recruit those who will be a service to their communities.

Finishing up the day, students ate a free lunch and had the opportunity to explore different booths at a resource fair held outside of the student center. Local organizations that offer volunteer opportunities around Sonoma County handed out pamphlets and information on their projects.