Yvonne Johnson at (813) 974-6130 about the conference, or Dan Casseday at (813) 974-7974 about the community forum.

" '150,000 Kids In Your Face and In Our Future' Conference Has National Experts
and Free Oct. 28 Community Forum

[547 words]
(Tampa, October 10, 2002)

Did you know that there are approximately 150,000 10-14-year-old adolescents in the Tampa Bay area, dealing with the issues of puberty ranging from bullying to positive body image?

National and local experts know that youth in the middle school, "make-or-break years", are faced with many physical, psychological and educational changes, and they will gather in Tampa the end of October to discuss the issues at a free community forum and at a related professional conference conducted by the University of South Florida Collaborative for Children, Families and Communities.

Tampa Bay area community leaders, agency staff, youth workers, social service and mental health professionals, business leaders, funders, school personnel, policymakers and researchers will meet to discuss innovative projects, initiatives, strategies, and issues concerning these young adolescents. Statistics and information will be provided on youth in the Tampa Bay area, and on issues in need of being addressed.

The keynote speaker for the community forum, titled “Raising Adolescents: What Works,” at 7 p.m., Oct. 28 at Jefferson High School, will be author and Washington Post columnist Laura Sessions Stepp. Her book, Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children through Early Adolescence, received critical acclaim when published in 2000. The book notes, among other things, that early adolescence is partly about loss of innocence, and it is parents’ last best shot at preparing adolescents for a successful life. Stepp's powerful, real-life observations, combined with what she learned from dozens of experts in adolescent development, provide an intimate glimpse into the world of our next generation of leaders. Her expertise is of value to employers, policymakers, health professionals and teachers, as well as parents and grandparents.

News Channel 8 co-anchor Gayle Sierens will moderate the forum, which also will include Luanne Panacek, executive director of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County; Tony Morejon, Hispanic affairs liaison for the Hillsborough County Commission; and Ellis Gesten of the USF Department of Psychology.

The related professional conference, titled “150,000 Kids in Your Face and in Our Future,” will be on Oct. 29 at the Double Tree Hotel Westshore. Speakers include Stepp; Del Elliott, a national expert on bullying from the University of Colorado; Keenan McCardell of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and panelists from throughout the Tampa Bay area. Cost for the conference is $25.

The objectives of the conference are to: Provide a forum for community members to network; Encourage all to conceptualize community needs and strengths from a resiliency framework; Inform each other about the status of our community, and; Learn what kids in the 10-14 year old age group really want and need. The conference will address how to create more connections, more competencies, develop higher expectations, provide greater optimism and encourage giving to others.

“The USF Collaborative is hosting these two events because they fit our mission to mobilize university faculty and area agencies to help communities enhance the lives of children and their families,” says Friedman, the Collaborative co-chair. “This also ties in with October being named as ‘Month of the Young Adolescent’ by the National Middle School Association.”

Sponsors of the conference include the USF Collaborative, the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County, Eckerd Family Foundation, and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Governor’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group.

For more information online about these events, call Yvonne Johnson at (813) 974-6130 about the conference, or Dan Casseday at (813) 974-7974 about the community forum.

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