Teen's-Eye View Of Recent Youth to Youth Conference
Back for a third year in a row, Gabrielle Granatiero calls the conference a "home away from home" for participants.
Someone asked me once if 24 hours could change a person's life. In that ignorant moment my response was no, but that was before July 24, 2012. The silent 20-minute drive to the Youth to Youth Eastern States Conference at Bryant University was a blur, my left leg would not stop shaking almost like I was possessed. Arriving, I dropped my hurriedly packed bag down on the ground as a herd of people gathered around me. Shrieks and cries of excitement filled the air as long-distant friends reunited. The pebbles on the ground shook as more than 400 hundred kids lined up before Hall 15.
Youth to Youth is a movement where teens come together to form drug-and alcohol-free environments in high schools all over the country. In this unique form of support and encouragement to stay drug and alcohol free, leadership skills and friendships are formed for life. For me, it was my third year at the conference.
Overtaken by the excitement at the conference, I signing up for workshops over the course of the next few days without even knowing what they entailed. Standing in the center of all the commotion I could see that this place had a meaning and already felt like a second home. Everywhere I turned people were hugging and crying and laughing, some were even singing (very off key).
Entering the dorm room where I'd be staying, I was greeted by my roommate, a new and soon-to-be close friend who greeted me with kindness and warmth. We walked together to the auditorium. The energy and enthusiasm that bounced frantically from the walls of that auditorium was enough to bring a smile to the face of even the most grumpy or nervous participant. The music was blaring, the smiles were the biggest I had seen in a long time and the love that filled the room was astonishing. The microphone's boom scared everyone into their seats but the voice that accompanied it was comforting. As I looked over the week's agenda I could just feel the smiles from the room get brighter and brighter as we made it down the list. Family groups, dances, special events, you could name it and it would be on there. This camp has became a part of me and after three years of going back every summer, I love the chance to see my friends that have traveled from all over the United States for this one conference.
Most of what makes this camp special is the acceptance and the sense of appreciation for every single person. One of the best things that you can find there is all the contrasting personalties and varying opinions. The atmosphere of Youth to Youth is so powerful and so inspiring that it makes you feel as if you can conquer the entire world in a matter of days.
My favorite part, though, is a very small fragment of the big picture. Each person has their own story to tell, and those stories can be raw, naked, and powerful. You don't get a chance to experience what others have been through until you have the chance to hear it face to face. But, no matter what tragedies or experiences they may have been through in their life you begin to admire that they are here with us today looking forward toward a brighter future.
Gabrielle Granatiero will be a sophomore at East Greenwich High School.