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Teen Summit focuses on right choices
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Georgia State Patrol trooper Will Bowman speaks at the summit. - photo by Photo by Tiffany King

The best way to act when you encounter a police officer is to be nice and follow their instructions.

That advice was given Saturday by Georgia State Trooper Will Bowman, who was speaking at a Teen Summit hosted by Webster University-Fort Stewart and the Hinesville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Bowman and other speakers were there to encourage teenagers to make good life choices. Attendees and their parents learned about self-esteem, health, positive relationships and online activity.

About 50 students registered for the summit that was held at the Fort Steward Education Center.

"Don’t think of police as people that are going to harm you. We’re here to help you," Bowman said. "Everyone has a different tolerance rate. Me, I’ll let you vent. I have no problem with it. Just be nice, be yourself, you don’t have to be angry. Most of the time it could be something simple and they just want you to know that your tag light is out."

He told the audience "you cannot win on the side of the road" and if one believes he is mistreated by an officer they should file a complaint, fight it in court, contact state representatives and exercise the right to vote.

His tips to the teens? Don’t make sudden movements, wait until the officer gets to the door and then asks the driver to get the license before doing anything.If driving alone on a dark back road, Bowman advised the

teens to turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights and then drive slow until they find a safe spot to pull over.

Bowman discussed other topics like bullying, the importance of having a five-year plan, prison and gun violence. The teens and their parents then broke off into sessions.

Lauren Kidd, prevention education specialist for the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire, spoke about digital citizenship.

Online activity creates a digital footprint for each person, Kidd said. What is posted online can be found, even if it is deleted or disappears, such as Snapchat videos. She mentioned apps that are capable of capturing Snapchat video before it supposedly disappears. Kidd also talked about colleges and employers researching prospects on various social media sites.

"Be careful what you put on the internet and the sites you register for because all that can be found," Kidd said. "Likes aren’t everything, they won’t get you a job. Write what you want people to see online about you in ten years."

Danika Delay, also a prevention education specialist for the Rape Crisis Center, talked about healthy relationships. Attendees watched a video of a young woman whose relationship with her boyfriend gradually became unhealthy and abusive.

"When you talk about boundaries in a relationship, that should be done verbally, not through texts or emoji," Delay said, "because how you wrote it may not be how they receive it."

When a teen is in an unhealthy relationship that person usually confides in a friend, not an adult, Delay said. She encouraged the students to advise that friend to talk with a trusted adult. Delay said there are hotlines teens can call for help if they don’t want to talk to a known adult.

The healthy body and self-esteem class was the most active out of the sessions.

Facilitated by Wanda Rhodes Wright of Talented and Educated Leading Ladies and Ernest Davis, retired from the military, students learned the importance of self-respect and how health is connected to self-esteem.

"Trying to be somebody or doing things that are not you can bring you down." Wright said. "You have to love yourself and build yourself up from within and get away from negative influences. Talking to others and letting it out about what brings you down helps to build self-confidence. Don’t hold all that in."

Wright said it is better for girls to encourage other girls, not tear them down.

Davis said self-esteem and working out go hand-in-hand. He advised setting short term and long term goals when exercising.

"Don’t set something too high that you can’t meet it and then go on a downward spiral. Set intermediate goals so you can achieve them and be excited to achieve the next goal," Davis said. "Doing cardio releases endorphins that help with stress and hormones that make you feel better."

Davis then had class do 30 squats and 30 push-ups to get their hearts pumping.

Chapter President Petula Gomillion said the purpose of the workshop was to inform parents and their children about topics such as policing and online activity.

"We want young people to know how to interact with police, how to have healthy relationships in middle- and high-school, how to have proper social interactions with one another and having accountability online," Gomillion said. "We want people to know that children can be informed in a positive, confined environment with access to professionals."

Parent Connica McFadden called the summit "awesome."

"It echoed what I’ve taught her (daughter) at home and it was beneficial to hear from the police officer because I have a 19-year-old son," she said. "It was just empowering. I wish I had something like this growing up."

Her daughter, Ayesha McFadden, also enjoyed the event and said her favorite session was the healthy body and self-esteem class because it was the most interactive.

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