Md. conference tackles teens and making good choices

WASHINGTON — Teenagers these days are facing plenty of challenges. But a free conference aims to help prepare teens to handle difficult situations before they happen.

It’s called Preparing for Success, a free program for teens and parents in Montgomery County, Maryland.

This year is the 15th year for the program, and for the first year, it’s open to boys, too. In years past, it was just for teenage girls.

This event is sponsored by the Montgomery County Women’s Bar Foundation.

Preparing for Success is designed to help empower teens so they make good choices that can keep them alive and keep them out of trouble.

This year’s theme is “Navigating life, the Streets and Social Media.”

Montgomery County Circuit Court Assistant Judge Karla Smith has been involved with the program for years, even as a young prosecutor. She said judges and prosecutors end up seeing the really bad end when teens make the wrong choices.

“So the question we always have is, how can we prevent another child from walking through the door of the courthouse?”

She said they constantly engage with the youths, but not in a positive way at the courthouse. So this is how they can become proactive in helping teens to make better choices.

The program addresses topics such as drugs, especially in light of the heroin epidemic in Maryland, underage drinking parties, social media and interacting with police.

Smith said the program is also open to parents and that they want parents there.

“I think that message for adults is to always have that conversation with your kids. That’s part of the reason we’ve invited adults to the event. We want parents to start to have that conversation,” she said.

According to Smith, if you don’t talk to your kids about uncomfortable topics — whether it’s social media or drugs and alcohol — then when your kid is confronted with that situation, they are not going to know how to handle it.

“So we’re hoping that we can help get that conversation started and give these kids some good ideas on how to manage themselves in situations because we know that they are going to be confronted by these types of things,” Smith said.

The program is going to continue every year and, Smith said, hopefully continue to grow.

“If a child leaves [after the program] and thinks, ‘You know what, I’m not going to get in the car with a drunk person,’ or if they think to themselves, ‘I know exactly how I’m going to manage a situation if I end up in a car and kids are doing something they shouldn’t be doing.’ Then we’ve done our job. We just want kids to walk away and know how to protect themselves,” she said.

If you go …

Register online:

When: Saturday, April 22

  • 9:30 a.m. check in (includes light breakfast)
  • 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Program includes lunch

Where: Germantown Campus of Montgomery College at the Bioscience Education Conference Center, room 151

Address: 20200 Observation Drive,  Germantown, MD 20876

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