YOUNGSTOWN - LaShonda Allen said she appreciated hearing Annemarie M. Grassi emphasize accountability and the importance of thinking outside the box when working with at-risk youth.
Allen, representing the Girl Scouts of northeast Ohio, was among dozens of people at the Swanston Fund Conference on Thursday. The conference, "Innovations: Evolving Approaches to Youth Development," was held at the Davis Education and Visitors Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown.
The conference was designed to benefit teachers, counselors, agency officials, social workers and other individuals who work with local children.
Grassi, chief executive officer at Open Doors Academy, a Cleveland-based leadership program for teenagers, was the keynote speaker.
"There are a lot of elements in (Grassi's) presentation that we try to use to work with the girls in our programs," Allen said. "We focus on meeting the youth where they are and it's very important to look at creative ways to do that."
Allen explained that the conference provided her with an opportunity to meet other area professionals, and to exchange ideas and strategies with them. She said she agreed with Grassi's concepts.
Paul Dutton, left, chairman of the Swanston Fund, and Annemarie M. Grassi, CEO of Open Doors Academy in Cleveland, discuss ways to help at-risk youth. Grassi was keynote speaker at the Swanston Fund Conference Thursday in Youngstown. Photo by Virginia Shank
Grassi, who addressed setting up youth for success in today's education system, stressed the importance of developing healthy adult-youth relationships and striving to reach youth at a new level. She said today's education system has failed students because society has not set them up for success.
''It's important that we begin to think outside of the box ... to be bold and daring in our effort to reach youth at a new level," Grassi said.
"In order for our youth to be successful, we have to begin thinking outside the box to create systems that impact them both short term and long term, and that prepares them for their future..."
She said adults need to put blood, sweat and tears into every youth they serve.
The program, which included workshops, table discussions and a networking lunch, was the third of its kind presented by the Swanston Charitable Fund. Bill Dutton, Swanston Fund chairman, said the organization focuses on assisting area organizations that work with youth by advancing initiatives to improve the lives of at-risk children.
"There is such as need when it comes to working with youth, especially at-risk youth," Dutton said. "Our goal is to assist local organizations and agencies with their goals in working with these youth."