Each year, the (Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) organization holds an eighth-grade youth forum where area schools are invited to bring 15 eighth-grade leaders to participate in a day of programming around their theme. “The organization hasn’t had one in three years, so it was exciting to finally be able to participate again,” said Chagrin Falls Middle School Counselor Kyle Patterson.
With a slogan of “Let’s Be Real,” this year's theme was about being a positive influencer and focused on being authentic. “The message focused on how we can be authentic and positive influencers and students discussed reality vs. messages depicted in social media and how these often aren't real life and how they affect our self-esteem,” said Patterson.
In an effort to connect and normalize everyday activities students actually partake in, students shared how they enjoy spending their free time vs. the false images they have of what they think "everyone else is doing." Students participated in games, activities, and discussion with nearly 100 eighth graders from seven area school districts.
Students are now encouraged to bring the message back to their home schools and be leaders by helping to put what they have learned into action by their own words and actions.