Keystone Tigers explore teen issues at youth awareness fair
The Keystone Tigers, the leadership arm of the Heights Youth Club (HYC), addressed depression and suicide at the Saving Us Youth Awareness Fair on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Several organizations serving Heights communities were present to introduce fair attendees to their programs. Participating organizations included: Avenues for Positive Changes, empowering girls and strengthening self-image; C.H.O.I.C.E.S., specializing in treatment for substance abuse and behavioral health; Jewish Family Services; Northern Ohio Recovery Association, offering adolescent substance use treatment; Ohio Guidestone, providing solutions for children, families and communities; Suicide Prevention Education Alliance (SPEA); and University Hospitals Discovery and Wellness Center for Children.
Three speakers addressed the audience of teens and parents. In his talk on entrepreneurship, Tory Coates compared the cost of education ($10,000 per student per year in public school, plus $20,000 per year for a state college) to the cost of keeping someone in prison ($30,000). He noted that the average test scores of prison inmates are in the third- and fourth-grade range. He then urged students to increase their personal wealth by “investing” in education and themselves.
Paul Ernst of SPEA distributed handouts with phone numbers and websites to use in crisis situations, along with information about depression and suicide. He encouraged the audience to put these numbers and sites on their phones.
SPEA works in 140 schools. Its free program provides information and direction to first-line help. He encouraged audience members to ask the tough question—“Are you having thoughts about suicide?”—of someone they are concerned about.
Ernst spoke about assessing the danger of a person’s thoughts of suicide and advised young people to contact a trusted adult if they think a friend is at risk for hurting him- or herself.
LaToyia Jones, co-founder of Alive on Purpose, a program partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, shared her own journey, which included abandonment by both parents, sexual molestation, two suicide attempts, and the realization that “your story is your résumé.”
Jones said that a person’s story “made you what you are,” adding that “you can either figuratively write it on a blackboard and stare at it each day, or face in the other direction and look forward. The blackboard is still behind you, but it no longer determines your outlook.”
The Keystone Tigers are proud to have attained the gold level in the Boys & Girls Clubs. It is the highest level for teen leadership groups. For more information about Keystone Tigers and the Heights Youth Club, go to www.heightsyouthclub.org, or call 216-321-2582.
Anne McFarland is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, a lawyer acting as guardian ad litem in the Juvenile Court of Cuyahoga County, and a member of HYC's board of directors.