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With knowledge comes power and a group of Vacaville teens hope their second-annual gathering will bring awareness and empowerment to fellow youths.
On Feb. 11, the Teen Summit is coming to town.
From 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Will C. Wood High School campus, teens will be engaged in workshops that touch on topics of concern to youths today.
“We’ll have speakers like Sabrina Word and Ashanti Branch,” said Sadie Cunning with Wood’s Interact Club, naming two outspoken youth advocates. “Our main focus is substance abuse and living healthier lives.”
Sadie, a Wood senior, added that she’s “super excited” for the event, which she also helped plan last year.
“It’s our second so more people know about us,” she continued.
Last year’s event, with the theme “Stereotypes, Gender Roles & the Media and How it Affects You,” filled a void, teen planners have said. With the advent of social media came an increase in bullying, cyber bullying and other issues. The summit was created to voice concerns, determine how to address them and to stand in solidarity with one another, lend support so each teen would know they are not alone.
In the end, the gathering was deemed a success by all.
“We asked them at the end if the day was worth it,” said Anna Eaton, executive director of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, following the 2016 event. “They all said yes.”
This year’s summit, sponsored by the Vacaville Rotary Club with aid from I-80 Forklift, was put together by teens with the Boys & Girls Club, REACH/AWARE Coalition, PAL, Fighting Back Partnership, staff from the Vacaville Unified School District and officers with the Vacaville Police Department.
Speakers will include Ashanti Branch, who will speak on misogyny and host a workshop on “Taking off the mask;” Officers Matt Adame and Danny Over, who will headline a talk titled “Whose Lives Matter?” and discuss police relations and teens; Sabrina Word , who will discuss what is and isn’t consent; Mike McKinnon, who will touch on drugs and alcohol and speak about making the right moves the first time around; Nicolette Morales with Fighting Back Partnership, whose workshop is about tobacco retail licensing and advertising; and Judith Franco with the AWARE Coalition, whose workshop focuses on “Marijuana and vaping myths: What you don’t know can hurt you.”
Jonathan Zavaglia said he’s excited about the workshops put on by the school resource officers, who will speak to police interactions with youths.
“A lot of youths haven’t dealt with that, haven’t been pulled over,” he said. “What would you do? … This is about calming things down.”
This workshop is expected to bring in 200 teens.
“We didn’t get close to 100 last time, maybe 80,” Sadie said. But so many more people know about it now.
The teens said to expect a free breakfast and lunch, workshops, games and lots of get-to-know-you time. Students who attend can also receive extra credit for select classes.
“It’s about bringing people together,” Sadie said.
Jonathan agreed, remembering how, last year, teens from various high schools got to know each other better.
“Our goal is to make something happen every year, to remind people that they’re important,” he said.
“To be consistent with it, so people look forward to it,” Sadie added.
Jonathan had one last message.
“Don’t be afraid to come,” he said. “And bring a friend.”
Eaton expressed pride in the youths involved in the planning of the summit.
“These teens should be applauded for taking action in their community,” she said. “This is better than making a statement, joining a march, or protesting — It’s educational and provides a space for them to discuss issues they see in their world.”
Teens can just show up at the school on the day of the event or learn more at

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