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Conference inspires, occupies youth
Participants in Fort Stewart's Future Leaders Conference play checkers.
Having something to do to combat boredom and negativity drew more than 90 Liberty County students to Fort Stewart’s Youth Center for the Future Leaders Conference March 12-15.
The 26,000 square foot state-of-the-art center was abuzz with activity in every room as students took part in the third annual conference.
The $5 million center opened in 2002 and features sporting events, a computer café, dance and music lessons and cooking lessons.
Organizers said the four-day conference was designed to inspire and challenge youth.
Best friends and Bradwell Institute schoolmates Krystal Greer, 16, and Heather Fuata, 15, said the program did a lot more by giving them something positive to do while coping with the recent deployments of their parents to Iraq.
The brightly colored décor throughout the center created a festive atmosphere as teens chatted in circles, on cell phones, played spirited air hockey and pool.
Greer and Fuata were reflective while challenging one another to a few rounds of checkers during a mid day break.
Staff Sgt. Pepa Fuata will deploy in May, Fuata said.
“The conference really helped me get my mind off him leaving,” she said. “It’s something to do other than sit at home. I feel sad, me and my dad are so ... so close. I love my dad to death.”
Remaining positive while her dad, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Greer, is deployed is important to Greer too.
“I try not to think about it. I try to stay busy doing something to help me with my future and be with my friends,” Greer said, noting her new baby brother helps.
“I have to help my mom and I stay really busy with that,” she said.
Job Shadow Day and Teen Violence Awareness and Prevention Sessions were two main features of the conference.
“It helped me to come in here and hear about teen violence,” Greer said.
Another benefit of the conference was job information that was provided, Fuata said. “They told us how to get a job here in Hinesville, where jobs are scarce around here. There are so many activities and it’s really fun.”
Liberty County High School’s Felisha Burks, 15, has enjoyed the conference for three years.
“It’s interesting. You get a lot of information,” she said. ”I especially like it because it teaches a lot of things.”
Youth Center Assistant Director Nicole Robinson said the conference featured workshops and activities for every age.
“We’re trying to get them involved in the center, give them fun things to do and give some valuable instruction all at the same time,” she said.  
“If we can incorporate fun and learning together we can accomplish many things,” Toni Scott, youth center lead programmer, said. “This is a bridge building program between middle school and high school. It’s absolutely important to have a middle school and teen center and have this conference.”
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