The Summit

The Summit - Taking Flight To Change

On Wednesday, October 18th over 1,000 middle school students, high school mentors, school advisors and volunteers packed Sparta High School’s Auditorium to attend the Center for Prevention and Counseling’s 16th annual Taking Flight to Change Middle School Summit featuring internationally known motivational speaker Ty Sells and the Camden Sophisticated Sisters Drill Team. According to Becky Carlson, Executive Director at the Center for Prevention and Counseling, “Since 2001, our annual Summit has provided an opportunity for a united effort with our county middle and high schools to motivate and empower youth to make a difference. Each student can ‘be the one’ to affect change in their school and community and this event gives them the tools to do just that!” The Summit provides an opportunity for middle school students to be excited about making positive changes within their school communities with workshops, performances, a binder full of ideas and connections to other schools. According to Greg Schrader, Vice Principal at Sussex Middle School, “The Summit provides a brief respite in the average middle schooler’s life to unite with their peers in experiencing a day of celebration and reflection in creating a better social environment. Enriched by this experience, students leave determined to make a difference.”

“It was evident that there was a positive and excited buzz in the air created by the keynote speaker, Ty Sells. He did a great job of being entertaining to both students and adults, while staying focused on the message of being inclusive and making good decisions” stated Leanne Paolazzi, Ogdensburg Advisor and Supervisor of Special Education. Throughout the day, students were engaged and attentively listening to Ty speak about kindness, the power of one and the importance of personal responsibility and accountability and the difference each student can make within their school community.  Ty also shares his passion about the Summit: “As a speaker, I have the opportunity to see amazing youth focused events all across the country.  This summit is without a doubt one of the largest, energetic, and most impactful. The high school mentors are so locked in on the participants and truly there for the right reasons. The middle schoolers are excited and ready to absorb everything.  The Center for Prevention really does an amazing job and truly making a difference in these communities. This is my fourth time and I look forward already to the next.”

The Camden Sophisticated Sisters (CSS), a team of youth from Camden County, motivates, educates and empowers youth through the structure and discipline of a drill team and the performing arts. CSS specializes in various styles of dancing including Drill, Step, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Modern and Jazz. For the 3rd year in a row, the Center for Prevention and Counseling was proud to host the Camden Sophisticated Sisters, who energized the crowd and provided insight as to how they overcame obstacles that they’ve faced within their community. “Coming to Sussex County was not only inspiring for their youth but for CSS as well.  As I looked around the audience, everyone was engaged and in tuned to the messages being shared. With everything that is going on in the world today, there’s hope when we are kind to one another” shared Twanda Jones, President and Founder of CSS.

A tradition of the Summit is to feature student-led performances that speak to the theme of the Summit.  This year’s Summit theme was: “Be Kind, Every Day, Every Time, Every One.” Giavanna Speer, an 8th grader from Kittatinny Regional High School kicked off performances with her rendition of “Rise Up” by Adra Day. Shortly followed by Izabella Nowicki, representing Sussex Technical School and back by popular demand for the 3rd year in a row. Izabella performed an acoustic version of “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera.  Other performances included a six minute skit by Sussex Middle School Students who referred to themselves as “The Secret Society Club” and performed “Odd Man Out,” Stillwater Elementary School 6th graders performed an Anti-Bullying Rap, Sandyston-Walpack 6th graders performed “It’s Gonna Be Okay” by The Piano Guys and Ogdensburg 7th and 8th grade students shared a beautiful acoustic version of “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. Sparta Middle School, Vernon High School and Pope John Middle School shared videos created by students that represented projects and initiatives currently being implemented in their respective schools that reinforce the value of kindness, respect and fostering a healthy school community.  

“This is an amazing day that unites our middle school students and it is only the beginning of a year -long commitment that middle school students and advisors make when they participate in the Summit.” stated Tina Aue, Director of Prevention Services at the Center for Prevention and Counseling. The Center for Prevention and Counseling provides on-going support to Sussex County schools through-out the year.