The 15th Annual Philly Teen Conference celebration was a day filled with excitement, education and compassion. With 200 area teens in attendance, more than 20 youth organizations, a handful of locally elected officials, teen mentors and dedicated volunteers, the teen conference made an impact in the lives of all who attended.

Teens traveled to the Howard Gittis Student Center on Temple University’s campus and enjoyed a day of powerful guest speakers, break out sessions and resource tables with information from youth organizations. Special guest included Mr. Anthony Martin, State Representative Donna Bullock, United States Men’s National Soccer team and Philadelphia Union’s team captain Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver Bryce Tregg’s, Philadelphia ¬†Sixers’ Community Relations Executive Kyle Branch and DJ D-ILL.

The morning started with guest speaker business guru Sirena Moore-Thomas who really inspired the youth to change their circumstances to be better. Break out session coaches such as Kyree Tyrell, CEO of MyNewPhilly.com and Ron Toles, Founder of Ordanarie Heroes were extremely excited to meet all the amazing youth and share their stories, while encouraging and educating teens on the topics of entrepreneurship, financial freedom and social justice.

The teen conference was filled with excitement beginning with a delicious breakfast, a heartfelt recap video of the first fourteen years of the conference, awesome entertainment from local dance crew Project Positive and a powerful introduction from YSI staff STOP coordinator Carla Johnson. We jumped right into the break out sessions to get to know each other, build new friendships and gain useful tools. It was great to see teens from all walks of life, different backgrounds and different neighborhoods all full of smiles and having a great time together.

During the break out sessions older teens, community leaders and parents enjoyed a panel discussion with an inspiring and informative line up. The panel discussion topics ranged from the best practices to connect with teens, how to deal with the emotional scars of racism, how to start a business today, the importance of saving money and more. The panel line up included guests such as State Representative Chris Raab, Common Court Judge Deborah Canty, Youth Service, Inc. Marketing Manager Maurice Hayman and youth from Delta Community Supports, Inc.

Following the break out sessions the teens ate lunch, took pictures with new friends, enjoyed live music from 12 year old phenomenon DJ D-ILL and provided the audience with team presentations summarizing what was learned in their particular sessions. The presentations varied from expressive poems, soulful melodies, artwork and even some dancing. Everyone enjoyed witnessing the teens working together in such a short period of time to make such impressionable presentations.

Keynote speaker, Author and social commentator, Dr. Boyce Watkins provided a very raw look into the reality of financial freedom and the components that surround that very topic. Dr. Watkins was awarded as “Youth Advocate of the Year” for his dedicated service and for his willingness to provide financial tools for teens. Mural Arts program artist and youth advocate Michael O’ Bryan received YSI’s “Champion of the Year” award for his commitment towards working with area youth and Girard College student Samesse Smith who is also the Vice President of the Junior Achievement/Comcast Business Hygenius program was awarded YSI’s “Outstanding Role Model for Philadelphia Youth”.

We finished the day with an amazing array of talent and an official after party in the Underground. Teens enjoyed live entertainment from Speak Life Tour, music from We Workin Entertainment, giveaways from Jordan Brand and Youth Service, Inc. along with a popcorn and cotton candy machine. The entertainers and set up of the after party was amazing and extremely creative. The teens departed expressing their gratitude and excitement for next year’s conference!