From Left: Chairman-Partners for Youth Foundation Clinton DaCosta, Broward Superintendent of Schools, Robert Runcie, Secretary, Partners for Youth Foundation- Noelle Baldwin, Ret'd Chief of Police- Andrew Smalling, Davie's Mayor Judy Paul, Vice-Chair, Partners for Youth Foundation-Steve Higgins, Directors, Partners for Youth- Dr. Rose-Marie Lewis & Abigail Thompson, Consul General of Jamaica- R. Oliver Mair.
Inaugural Confab a Huge Success!
Electrifying Partners for Youth Confab Launch
The Partners for Youth Foundation (PFY) presented the CONFAB, which hosted an impressive cadre of officials including the Mayor of Davie - Judy Paul, Consul General of Jamaica – Oliver Mair, Broward Superintendent of Schools- Robert Runcie and retired Chief of Police for Lauderdale Lakes, Andrew Smalling, who is now running for Broward Sheriff. Each speaker gave poignant accounts to their audience, ranging from recounting their own experience, to delivering an exhortation to students, to be the best they can.
The students were also captivated by other presentations made by Noelle Baldwin (Scholarships and University choices), Dr. Rose-Marie Lewis (Health & Wellness), Clinton DaCosta (Finance- You & Your Money), attorney and marriage/ family therapist Shari Warner (impact of Social Media), Yvonne Barnett ( Immigration & Human Trafficking and Teen therapist Chyvonne Martin on Coping Skills. The Confab was hosted and moderated by Vice-Chair Steve Higgins.
But it was the Q&A period that electrified the proceedings, when a student asked what is being done to protect them at school. Both the Superintendent and the Police Chief responded with reassurances, backed by a report on the measures now in place. The second student however, who stood, and in frank and firm articulation, stated that she and many of her schoolmates were now suffering from anxiety related to the frequent and terrifying drills now being conducted in their schools. While stating her truth, she displayed authentic and raw emotion, broke down in utter resignation to her pain, only to be joined by a host of other students and adults who also began crying. Their frustration with the current situation became obvious and telling, and it also was made clear that students apparently ‘do not trust the system’ of ‘if you hear something, say something’, even with the promise of anonymity. This commotion brought to the fore, the urgent need to amend the ‘fixes’ that have been passed by Florida State (Tallahassee) to measures more sensitive to student’s mental and emotional state and comfort. It also begs for the opportunity to methodically and deliberately bridge the gap between students and local stakeholders (Schools & the Police department).
Main speakers: Mayor Judy Paul opened the session by launching the Confab and cutting the ceremonial ribbon signifying the inauguration. The Mayor then shared her own story with the attendees, which centered around the paramount importance of completing one’s education, regardless of distractions.
Superintendent Runcie also spoke from the heart with his own experience, coming from extremely humble beginnings in Trelawny, Jamaica, and through studying hard at school, earned his Bachelor’s degree at the prestigious Harvard University. He spoke about his steady focus, which led to his many achievements, encouraging the youth to make that choice. Superintendent Runcie then dealt with the matter of students’ ability to manage their emotions. “The greatest gift we can give our kids”, he said, “is the ability to handle their emotion and life’s challenges. If you cannot handle your emotions, your life will be more difficult”. He then reported on the many successes of the Broward schools today, including the rollout of innovative Apps such as “SaferWatch”- and “FortifyFl”, both of which allow students to anonymously report incidents- “If you see something, say something”. Upon hearing about this App, all attendees instantly downloaded it on their mobile phones. Runcie mentioned the installation of Tip lines, the $110M spent on security, campus monitors, 13,000 cameras with real-time 24/7access, upgrades to the intercom systems, the Broward Behavioral Health coalition and a resolution passed NOT to have guns carried by teachers in school.
Chief Smalling spoke about the tension between police officers and the society and the need to re-establish trust and work together. He pleaded with students to always be respectful to the officer, who is there to protect and to serve, observe the name tag, the department patch on their shoulder and to address them properly. He read a passionate poem which he penned, about the frustration of a police officer always wanting to do good, but sometimes vilified because of the action they must take.
Our exit interviews reflected the gratitude of the youth present at the Confab. They all reported that they were appreciative and benefitted from this engagement.
The objective of hearing from our youngsters in a forum of togetherness, mutual respect and constructive understanding has been met” said Steve Higgins, Vice-chairman of the PFY board. “The youth were engaged, enthusiastic, honest and forthright in our discussion, which will now continue through the Partners for Youth Foundations’ relationships with all stakeholders”, declared Chairman Clinton DaCosta.