"Ignite Your Spark": Youth summit returns virtually

The Council for Youth Development will have its third annual Youth Empowerment Summit beginning Monday, in a virtual format.

“We recognize that health and safety precautions are essential right now but physical distancing does not mean we must stop all community engagement,” said Council for Youth Development Director Heather Carson.

The planning team and this year’s Youth Ambassadors have been planning for a while about how to make the summit meaningful without school assemblies or a public event at The Commons.

“We went back to the summit’s purpose, to spark community conversation focused on improving positive youth development in Bartholomew County,” Carson said.

As it happens, “spark” is the buzzword for this year’s summit, which is subtitled: “The Power of Purpose — Ignite Your Spark.”

But what is a spark?

“A spark is what people are really passionate about doing, an activity that unleashes their energy and joy, one that may allow them to express themselves and make their own unique contributions to the world. Research from Search Institute shows that when young people know their sparks and have adult support in nurturing them, they are more likely to have a sense of purpose, to be socially competent, physically healthy, and to do better in school,” according to the council

In order to help kids find their spark, the organization has used information from the Search Institute to create a booklet for grades 3-12 that also has resources for parents, caregivers and educators. The booklet has four main activities:

Activity 1 — What is Spark?

Activity 2 — Exploring Your Spark

Activity 3 — Exploring Sparks through Leadership and Voice

Activity 4 — Using Sparks to Help the Community

Carson said CYD is also encouraging residents of all ages to use the hashtag #sparkchampion and share their spark activities on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“This is much more of a hands-on year where parents and educators can also share how they are creatively engaging those young people in their lives about spark,” Carson said. “We see this as a community show and tell. … We hope this provides a way for us to learn from each other and support each other.”

Users who post and hashtag pictures of their spark activities on Facebook and Instagram have the chance to win a $25 Viewpoint Books gift card. Ten “Spark Champions” will be announced on Friday through CYD’s Facebook and Instagram. Entrants can increase their chances of winning by doing all four activities.

There will also be two 30-minute virtual Q&A sessions on Monday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to discuss the Spark Activity Booklet and other questions about the summit. Individuals can RSVP for the sessions through CYD’s website.

Carson said that these sessions are intended for parents, teachers and youth care workers, as well as faith-based leaders or other community members who want to know more about the summit.

The main event of this year’s summit is a virtual screening of the IndieFlix Original documentary “LIKE,” followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Scilla Andreen, kid-grit founder Julia Gabor and two of CYD’s Youth Ambassadors, Valeria Juarez (senior at Columbus North) and Forest Steele (senior at Hauser). The event starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

“LIKE” is a film about the effect of social media and technology on people’s lives and how to use those resources responsibly.

“The ‘LIKE’ film and panel discussion is recommended for viewers ages 10 and older,” Carson said. “We hope that young people watch this film with caring adults in their life so that they have the opportunity to have a healthy dialogue about social media habits, concerns, and brainstorm ideas to maintain their well-being with technology.”

The event is free, but registration is required. Registration provides access to the virtual screening, panel discussion, a discussion guide and other resources. The registration link can be found on CYD’s website.

Both the film screening and the discussion will be recorded and shared after the event. The recording will be available for 48 hours starting on Thursday.

Carson said that in addition to these events and activities, CYD will highlight “community partner projects that integrate this year’s theme” through its website, as well as its Facebook and Instagram.

“Our coalition truly believes every resident has a role to play in supporting our young people,” she said. “At any age, we know it is essential to discover our purpose in life. When we do recognize and ignite our own spark, we are better for it. When individuals thrive, community thrives. The sooner we can help our children, teens, and young adults ignite their own spark, the better chances they have to build developmental assets and strengthen their resiliency during challenging times.”

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More information about this year’s summit activities can be found at cydbartholomew.org/youth-empowerment-summit-2020, as well as CYD’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Carson said that CYD will launch the first two videos in its "Ignite Your Spark" series on Monday. Two additional videos will be posted in late September and October.

Sponsors for the 2020 summit include:

  • Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council – Drug Free Communities Fund
  • Bartholomew County Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative
  • Communities That Care – Foundation For Youth
  • Division of Mental Health and Addition – Project AWARE Grant
  • Wendy Elwood – The Republic’s Woman of the Year 2019 Recipient Contribution