Self-esteem, teen suicide, the effects of social media, bullying and drugs. These are some of the biggest issues Medina County teens face, according to 220 high school students from all of the county’s school districts who gathered Wednesday for the first E4 Youth Summit.
The all-day summit was sponsored by the United Way of Medina County and held at Westfield Insurance’s Blair Center, 9079 Leroy Road, Westfield Center.
“We’re really trying to figure out what the big issues are for Medina County’s youth,” said Seth Kujat, executive director of the county’s United Way chapter.
The “E4” in the summit’s name refers to the United Way’s hope to engage, educate, equip and empower the students to make a difference.
“The students talked a lot about getting the county to unify, to get them to work together for the betterment of the county,” Kujat said.
Students spent the day reflecting on their lives and sharing them with the others to try to get a good picture of what they have in common.
“They’re all different in that they’re from different schools and have different backgrounds,” Kujat said. “But I think they all have things in common.”
To figure out what joined each of them, teens told each other short stories about their lives — including a difficult task they had to overcome.
A Medina High School sophomore said he used to feel pressure from his family to play football and other sports, but last year decided he didn’t want to keep playing.
“I think that taught me how to get through tough times,” he said.
After telling their stories, they were directed to think of a dream they had for their peers.
Amanda Gaeckle, a Wadsworth High School senior, said she wanted her peers to know that things get better.
“Even though they’re having a hard time, I want to let them know that soon everything will be awesome,” she said.
The students will return next Friday to work on how to reach their goals.
“They’ll come up with a strategy to try to make their vision a reality,” Kujat said.
He added the results of their discussions will reach fruition using about $10,000 in funds from the United Way, as well as donations from local banks and investment firms.
Kujat said anyone who wants to make a donation to the cause can do so by reaching out to the United Way at (330) 725-3926.
“We’re encouraging leaders in the community and business owners to come out and see what we’re doing. All we ask is you call ahead so we can get them registered,” Kujat said. “We want to make sure this youth vision happens in every school district.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or ngl