Free to the general public, the teen forum will feature a guest teen panel to discuss topics concerning youth in a variety of areas. Area teenagers, parents and other interested parties are invited to attend.
"We have done teen forums in the past in Bartow County and each one has been different because of the different teens involved," said Linda Walker, Bartow Collaborative executive director. "Basically it's giving teens an opportunity, in some kind of format, to talk to adults -- parents, community leaders, elected officials and this year candidates, we hope -- about their issues and concerns."
This forum, the first since 2007, will focus on several topics with panel guests speaking from experience in various roles, including negative and positive past experiences that have shaped their lives. For them, this opportunity not only allows them to voice concerns but to further their skills in the public arena, Walker said.
"For those particular teens who are the speakers and involved in the program, that's an asset to development experience for them," she said. "It's another way for them to feel good about themselves and what they're doing. And for them to have a voice in the decision making, we always take those ideas and, as we can, try to incorporate it and address those in trying to help the situation for teens in general in Bartow County."
Panel contributors will include a man that became a father during his teenage years and what he faced as a consequence of his decisions. Another panelist went through the Georgia Juvenile Justice System, which changed his life, while others will speak to leadership opportunities, including an Eagle Scout and a teenager who recently visited Africa on a mission trip. Representing a separate viewpoint, another panelist will offer insight from a home-schooled perspective.
"The takeaway we hope will be that it will give the other teens an awareness of what they might face if they go the wrong situation, and yet it also offers alternatives for positive role models," said Daniel McCoy, Bartow Collaborative chairman. "Really, it's an opportunity for teenagers to come together and express the items that are bothering them or that they're facing. It's basically a true forum where they can communicate with one another, with adults, just a chance to give them a voice to speak out and be heard, which so often in this day and time they don't have that ability."
Speaking Thursday about his experiences in leadership, Miles Terrell will talk about the decisions he made to attain Eagle Scout and the traits developed along the way.
"I was going to talk about what it really takes to be a leader, what are some characteristics of being a leader, and also about my Eagle Scout. The time I had to put in for it while my other friends were hanging and off doing other things, the sacrifices that had to be made to do that. ... Give them an idea of what it takes to be a leader. Speaking from a personal experience and them hearing that, it may give them an idea of what they may want to become later on in the future," Terrell said.
His hobbies and interests in and out of school have added to the experience from which he will share with those at the forum. A senior at Cass High, Terrell, 17, is a member of the football and baseball team as well as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"It's given me more responsibility. I always know to have a smile on my face; I have better friends. It's just made me a better person really -- made me more involved," he said.
The forum will be held Thursday at the Cartersville Civic Center beginning at 5:30 p.m., with a resource fair and a light dinner provided by Gourmet on the Go followed by the teen panel discussion at 6 p.m. Judge Shane Haney will serve as moderator for the event.
This event was made possible by a grant from The Walmart Foundation and the Georgia Family Connection Partnership. For more information, call Walker at 770-773-7342.