On June 27, 2014 approximately 50 high school students from New Haven, East Haven, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook and Durham/Middlefield arrived at the Clinton Town Hall for the 4th Annual LEADership Conference.

LEAD (Leadership Encourages Asset Development) is a conference organized by both youth and adult advisors from all of the above towns, as well as Branford, East Haddam, Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam-Killingworth. The idea began four years ago to bring together like-minded, substance free students from all of the different communities in southern Connecticut. The adults that came up with the concept hoped to provide support for these young people by bringing them together for leadership skill development and social networking. Each adult advisor knew that there were groups of teens in each town and high school that held similar values, but that sometimes the students had no access to one another. LEAD was born to provide that access.

In 2014, the 50 student attendees had the opportunity to work within mixed-town groups and interview 11 different adults who volunteered to represent the 11 community sectors: business, government, schools, parents, medical, substance abuse prevention, youth serving organizations, police, media, religion, and civic groups. Scattered around the town hall area of Route 1, these 11 volunteers answered questions from the teens about youth involvement in their sector, and how youths could become leaders within both that sector and the larger community. Senator Art Linares was among these fantastic adults who loaned their time to speak with our students.

The groups then broke for lunch, and enjoyed the beautiful setting offered by the landing behind the Town Hall. Groups of students were scattered across the grass, the picnic tables and the dock, soaking in the sun and enjoying time to socialize.

The afternoon activities included forming and stating opinions on various topics, ranging from pizza and Finding Nemo, to marijuana use and underage drinking. Students were encouraged to formulate their opinions and have mini-debates on these topics, to explore both their own values as well as those of others. At the end of the day, students broke into their multi-town groups again for small discussions on some of these “hot topics”.

The day wound down with a visit from the ice cream man, which was paid for by the Drug Free Communities grant from the Federal Government. Students’ feedback was quite positive on the day, as they enjoyed learning about the many different ways that the sectors do care about youth. One student said, “I was surprised to learn that so many different groups really do care about kids”.

If you would like more information about LEAD, please contact us at PiC!