Friday, December 2, 2022

WHS students attend youth summit to develop positive leadership skills

By Lorraine Glowczak

About 14 Windham High School students joined 60 other teens from Westbrook and South Portland High Schools in the Third Annual Collective Impact Youth Summit held on Friday, Nov. 18, at the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church.

Be The Influence, the local drug-free coalition, co-hosted
the Third Annual Collective Impact Youth Summit that
provided teens the opportunity to network about substance
misuse and social/emotional well-being. Fourteen students
from Windham High School attended the event and some
are shown including top from left, Victoria Lin and
Francesca Lomonte. Second row, from left are Jolene Bailey,
Erica Lin, Gwen Kim and Bella Lorenzatti.
The local drug-free coalition, Be The Influence, which partnered with the Westbrook Partners in Prevention and So Po Unite coalitions, was instrumental in creating this all-day regional high school event. The purpose is to allow teens to network and share ideas with other students about what is happening in their school districts regarding substance misuse with a focus on social/emotional well-being.

During the event, WHS students also had the opportunity to build leadership skills concentrated on helping peers make healthy choices.

All participants had a choice of multiple breakout sessions that included topics such as Yoga and Mindfulness, Using Arts to Build Resilience, Leadership and Advocacy, and Life After High School. They also experienced team-building games and small group discussions.

Freshman Jolene Bailey, a member of the WHS Mental Health Advocacy Club, said that she really enjoyed the Leadership and Advocacy session because she felt she was able to create a bond with students from other schools while learning ways to develop new skills.

“The group consisted of an open conversation and was guided in such a way that I felt comfortable connecting with others,” she said. “I came away from that experience learning the ways of being an effective leader, and I hope to apply what I learned in my life and at school.”

Sophomore Francesca Lomonte, a former BTI member involved in many WHS extra-curricular activities, said that she enjoyed the Yoga and Mindfulness breakout session.

“I really liked the yoga and mindfulness session because it allowed me to chill and reset,” she said. “And it was a lot more fun than sitting in math class.”

The WHS students agreed that the summit was a fun and educational experience that provided a few personal takeaways.

“What I learned the most from attending this summit was the realization that there is a community of students out there other than what I know and experience at WHS,” Lomonte said. “This community of young people is much larger than I realized.”

Freshman Erica Lin attended the event with her older sister, Victoria, who is a senior. Lin shared her own realization regarding a peer-focused community.

“Other schools have a lot in common with us here at WHS in terms of facing the many challenges students meet today, and that makes me feel less alone knowing that.”

As far as developing leadership skills that make a positive impact among friends, the youth summit participants walked away with tools for success.

“In BTI, we create a presentation and talk with middle school students on why vaping is not a healthy choice,” Lomonte said. “Additionally, we can provide positive leadership examples with our peers by being involved in various activities. There are many choices that help people focus on a healthier lifestyle, such as getting involved with theater, robotics club, quiz show group - or any other club that helps you meet people and do something enjoyable with your life.”

BTI Director Laura Morris said that the summit was a huge success.

She said that the event was successful, partly, due to the support of WHS’ Physical Education/Health teacher, Melissa Dubois, and a financial contribution by the Sebago Lake Rotary Club that provided a portion of the summit’s lunch menu.

Morris reiterated the students’ sentiments, stating that she was delighted with the outcome and that students came away with actionable skills.

“Youth are hungry for connection and making a difference,” she said. “It was wonderful to see them embrace the topics and foster strong conversations, taking those experiences and applying them at their schools.”

Morris and Dubois both thanked the Director of Raymond Parks and Recreation, Joe Crocker, for transporting the WHS students to the event.

The BTI vision is to provide support and resources to students as well as communicate a consistent drug-free message, assuring students that they live in a community that cares about them.

The coalition is comprised of various members of the community that include: RSU 14 staff and teachers, local law enforcement, town council members, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, prevention and counseling organizations, libraries as well as community and business organizations.

For more information about Be The Influence, visit its website at, or send an email to Laura Morris at You can also follow them on Facebook. <

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