Dodging 'speed bumps'

Students at Friday's Youth Summit try to guess what's fact and what's fiction concerning some common sexual health issues. The theme for this year's summit was 'Finding Your Purpose: How to Avoid the Speed Bumps.'

From sex to stress, no topic was off limits at Friday's fifth annual Youth Summit.

About 140 students representing each of the public high schools in Charleston County met at North Charleston High to talk about the issues and challenges mattering to them.

Each year, the city of Charleston's Mayor Youth Commission, which is comprised of students from high schools in the county, plans the summit. This year's theme was "Finding Your Purpose: How to Avoid the Speed Bumps."

Students engaged in open dialogue in each of the four workshops, which focused on the "speed bumps" they might encounter in their physical, social, emotional and sexual health.

Mindy Sturm, youth programs coordinator for the city of Charleston, said one of the goals of the summit is for students to take the information they learn from the workshops back to their schools.

In the emotional health workshop, for instance, students learned ways to cope with everyday stresses.

And in the "S.E.X." workshop, students were led through a discussion of sexual related issues, learning the real facts of getting pregnant and transmitting sexual diseases.

"The summit is also a good way for the kids to see and meet students at the other schools and break down the stereotypes they may have of those schools," Sturm said. "They find out that the other students are just like them."

Olivia Mayo, 17, of James Island Charter is her school's junior class president and found the summit informative and encouraging.

"It shows you're not the only person trying to do better," Mayo said after seeing all of the other students gather from around the county. "When you see others wanting the same, you get more into it."

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey also dropped in to give students a few words of encouragement.

"You have so many directions where you can go, but keep your horizon open," Summey told the students. "Opportunities may come your way and change the directions you're going in. Education gives you the ability to accept challenges and accept changes."

Rashidus Goode, 18 and a senior at Garrett Academy, said overall the summit was helpful and inspiring.

"It will be something to look back to as a boost and motivation," Goode said.

Reach Almar Flotildes at 937-5719 or aflotildes@postandcourier.com.