As the rain poured down on Saturday morning, teens poured in to the Teen Forum held at the Bryan County Sheriff’s Department in Richmond Hill.
"With approximately 80 in attendance, we had standing room only as teens and parents from Richmond Hill, Pembroke and even Atlanta came to hear a panel of experts discuss the impact of their choices and the importance of not experimenting with drugs and other destructive behaviors" said Bridget Wallace, Forum Organizer.
Guest speakers included Bryan County Juvenile Diversion Case Manager Raquel Taylor, who explained the role of a juvenile probation officer. Richmond Hill Police Department’s Corporal Ray Fowler quickly built a rapport with the teens. He discussed the relationship between law enforcement and youth, encouraging teens to follow the law.
Attorney Jonathan DeJesus gave an overview of the juvenile justice process and common offenses among juveniles. Tim Strickland with Bulloch Recovery Resources interacted with the teens using short skits to discuss drug use.
Perhaps the highlight of the event were the stories of two teens, David Sharpe and Dorian Hinz, who joined Strickland.
In a group of their peers, they each shared their real-life experiences with the juvenile justice system and the serious consequences they continue to endure.
Sharpe warned them that "You DO NOT want to go to Savannah RYDC, that place is no joke."
Hinz said that after his experiences, he pretty much stays at home now because he does not want to get in any more trouble.
Randy Frost, who has 29 years experience as a social worker and counselor and who also works closely with the Bryan County School System and Bryan County Family Connection, served as forum facilitator.
"The Teen Forum in Richmond Hill this past Saturday was an incredible success," he said. "This is something that each and every county should explore and do several times per year."
Parent Sarah Adams stayed for the entire forum and brought her three teenagers.
She said "the forum was very educational, informative and an eye opener. This is the kind of preventive programs we need to have in the schools."
Her two high school teenagers, Brittany and Brianna Burns stated "we learned a lot from the program and we think it will help us make better choices in our life. They should continue to have this program because it can help young kids make better choices."
The Forum was organized by parent Bridget Wallace, with support from Bryan County Family Connection and the Bryan County Drug Free Coalition.
"I am excited that Bridget came to us with this idea, we wanted to support her in any way we could," said Bryan County Family Connection Director Wendy Sims.
The Bryan County Youth Advisory Council (YAC) was also out in full force to help host the event by registering attendees and serving lunch.
Other supporters of the event included the Bryan County News, Baldino’s, Papa’s Pizza, Beef O’Brady’s, Plums Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop, What’s the Scoop Café and Mr. Pizza.
"We want to give a big thanks to everyone who supported the event, it was a great success," said Wallace.
Wallace is busy looking towards the future: Pembroke City Council member Angela Reed attended the forum and is ready to have one in Pembroke. Together with Family Connection, Wallace is planning for an event in Pembroke in April. Stay tuned for forthcoming details.