The Northern Westchester Examiner

Alliance for Safe Kids Brings Community Together at Forum

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The Alliance for Safe Kids (ASK) held its eighth annual Save a Life community forum Sunday afternoon at Lakeland High School, bringing the community together to strengthen the safety net supporting today’s youth.

During the three-hour event, parents and students from the Yorktown, Lakeland, Walter Panas, Briarcliff, Peekskill and Mahopac school systems participated in a series of workshops where educators, law enforcement, medical professionals, faith-based organizations and civic groups provided information to recognize when someone may be in harm’s way and the resources to help them.

“Everybody is coming together to really offer a message to our youth they are supported,” Liz Talbert, executive director of ASK, said at the event. “One of the things we have realized is that when someone feels support they will make the best decisions for themselves and hopefully support others to do the same thing.”

With more than 300 students and adults in attendance participating in workshops including bullying, dating, youth mental health, stress and anxiety, and substance abuse, students felt the workshops spread awareness and encouraged others to look for signs of distress.

“There are so many things you can do to connect with people and to have a fun time instead of putting yourself or other people in danger so just learning about substance abuse and how easy it is and how it connects to mental health is important,” Yorktown senior Delilah Anderson said. “I feel a lot of people need to be more educated and this event definitely helps with that.”

Yorktown junior Catherine Giblin implemented the Sandy Hook Promise organization, a preventative program that teaches youth and adults how to identify, intervene and get help for individuals at-risk of harming themselves or others, into the district last fall. She said it was imperative to raise awareness to the gun violence occurring throughout the country.

While her exhibit was planned prior to the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead, she said being related to someone who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut more than five years ago enabled her to want to prevent kids from being isolated and encourage others to speak up if they see something out of the ordinary.

“My uncle started this organization, and as a family member it was really important for me to share it with as many people as I could and try to get a lot of people to know what we’re doing and that we’re making a difference,” Giblin said. “Raising awareness of the gun violence that’s happening and showing them the signs and teaching people not only to see the signs of someone who is going to hurt themselves or others but also know the whole issue. Preventing gun violence before it happens”

Keynote speaker, clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Fowlin, combined his professional acting talents and psychological training to provide attendees with a cultivating and empowering presentation that reinforced ASK’s message that acceptance, inclusion, prevention and support are essential.

Through humor and performance art, Fowlin captivated the audience sharing his personal journey of depression, anxiety and self-discovery. He encouraged students to embrace each other, their differences and their emotions, and to never feel like they’re incapable of speaking out.

“The part about saving a life comes from the fact that we have to have conversation with each other. We have to take the risk of actually talking to somebody who may be just a little different, odd, whatever, sit on the outside,” Fowlin said. “If we can’t take a step to reach out to somebody who may be just a little bit different, may not fit in, and realize that we have to understand their pain and their story, then I don’t think we’re really ready to do the work that’s going to be necessary to be able to save each other.”

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