SMITHFIELD — Almost a quarter century ago, the first premise of the Youth-to-Youth Conference was to deter high-school kids from getting involved with drugs and alcohol and running into problems in conjunction with the two.
Now, even with some former participants coming back to help volunteer and guide the current youth, they are even amazed as to how much the event has expanded and shines more light on other issues.
Close to 40 high-school kids from East Greenwich made the trek up to Bryant University for the annual four-day event, all brought to the event by Bob Houghtaling, the substance abuse prevention coordinator for East Greenwich, to participate in a number of workshops along with 400 other kids from around the country, workshops that are designed to help improve the youth in all fronts.
“It’s magnified completely,” said Meghan Lenihan, an East Greenwich resident who was part of one of the first Youth-to-Youth Conferences. “It’s huge. When I walked in, I was blown away at how big this has gotten.”
“You get to meet new people,” said East Greenwich resident David Biber, who made his first trip to the conference last week. “There’s a lot of people here. It’s fun and there’s a lot of family groups. They have dances and you get to do all kinds of different things.”
Some of the workshops – which are taught mainly by fellow high-school kids – were designed to teach the young minds to problem-solve when a myriad of situations arise, either with friends or family members.
“If someone has a problem with anything, that gets addressed to you and you learn how to fix it,” said Michael Guilfoyle, a sophomore at East Greenwich High School. “They can kind of help their friends and family and it’s a real big leadership thing. If anybody has a problem, they learn how to fix it and help anybody else that has that problem.”
The workshops that were available for the kids at Youth-to-Youth this past week, where each kid had to take four of them, included Pharm A.I.D., where the kids learn about the dangers of prescription drugs, or developing a positive mental attitude.
Or even spending an hour-long workshop understanding the concept of hugging.
“I’ve taken it before and it’s one of the best workshops in the world,” said Guilfoyle of the hugging workshop. “It tells you how to stretch your limits and go out to do certain stuff. It’s where you don’t be afraid of going out of your comfort zone. To me, the speaker says do this, this and this and then you’ll be okay. The world isn’t going to bite you.”