Youth Summit: Day of Laughter and Hope

When Michael Pritchard started the sound effects of explosions and crashes that accompany video games he had the youthful audience’s full attention. When he started talking about bullying and intolerance, the comedian had them in the palm of his hands.

When a young man began talking about the difficulties of his life and how he began to act out as a reflection of those troubles, the gym full of youth was silent.

Between the bouts of laughter, Pritchard had a message that pierced the wall of teenage cool and indifference and touched the hearts of over 750 people in attendance at the 9th annual countywide Youth Summit at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg on April 16.

“He was the perfect choice for a keynote,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover, who sponsors the event.

Pritchard kicked off the daylong event of workshops, booths and entertainment. After the comedian’s presentation, the youth were able to ask questions of the city, school and county officials. The topics ranged from more diversity in the teaching workforce to the ways law enforcement treated youth.

The 18 wide-ranging workshops covered topics from avoiding gangs, starting a business to being a good friend and how to find a job.

“Kids were able to see the Sheriff’s helicopter and some firefighting equipment up close,” said coordinator Paul Adler, a member of Glover’s staff.

“It says a lot about the summit that the youth – on a Saturday — got up early in time for the 9 a.m. start and stayed the whole day,” said Adler.

“This was the largest turnout we ever had,” said Glover. “Word of mouth among the youth and their use of social media is helping us get the word out.”

An hour-long documentary on the 2010 Gang Summit will air on Friday, April 29 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 30 at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on CCTV. The day-long summit was taped by Give Always To Others (GATO), an East County-based nonprofit headed by Carmen Ochoa, that also produces another television
show aired on local public TV and focuses on issues affecting East County.

“It was a great event,” said Glover. “There was some uncertainty what the summit would be about. Some thought we were glamorizing the gang lifestyle. Others thought it was only for gang members. This show will give the general pubic a chance to see what went on at the summit where we emphasized the alternate choices young people have besides gangs.

“Going against peer pressure is very difficult for young people. It was important that we showed that there were safe and legal ways to express yourself, prevent bullying, stay away from drugs and earn money through jobs.”

CCTV is Comcast channel 27, Astound channel 32 and AT&T U-verse channel 99.

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