VETERANS EMPOWERING TEENS THROUGH SUPPORT® (V.E.T.T.S.®)
A Restorative Justice Mentoring Program
Over 100 teenagers gathered together for the 2nd annual V.E.T.T.S. Teen Summit on the morning of April 1, 2016. The staff and veterans of V.E.T.T.S. gathered optimistically; this year there was a significant increase in students, and the new location contributed to the overall excitement. Based on demands by the youth we extended the Summit to a two-day event. The summit took place at Southern Connecticut State University, special thanks to Dean Yan Searcy for hosting us and providing the student with a campus tour; many of the attendees were high school juniors and seniors and had college on their radar, this experience was a first for many of them.
This year we decided to emphasize on African history and racial socialization, and the importance of self and cultural identity. What's next? We talked post-high school graduation opportunities other than college. Military and trade skill options were introduced to the youth and gave them alternative paths to discover.
During the breakout sessions, the students were broken up into groups and attended empowering informative sessions. James Roy, one of our mentors, spoke on the topic of personal branding and how to present themselves with dignity and not as a stereotype. The students were challenged to look further at their identity.
On the second day, Dr. Brett Rayford addressed the students in a lecture hall and presented on culture and racial history. Dr. Maysa Akbar encouraged the young men and women of the room to know their roots. The students were shown a segment of the documentary film series Hidden Colors and were challenged to seek answers on their own rather than allow society to paint the picture of who they are.
The V.E.T.T.S. Teen Summit was a success for the second year in a row! The mission was to motivate and empower the youth in their racial identity and provide them with the resources to succeed in today’s society.
Thanks to our V.E.T.T.S. mentors and volunteers from around the city, we were able to deliver entertainment and valuable information to over three times the amount of youth from the prior year. We hope to continue to make an impact in the number of youth we reach. We are passionate about motivating, encouraging and loving our Black and Brown youth. We want young people to reach for the stars and to strive for greatness.
The V.E.T.T.S. Teen Summit has allowed us to do so, and we’re already looking forward to next year! We hope to see you there.