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Strength In Voices Conference Draws Diverse Group Of Washoe Students


By Carla O’Day

Strength in Voices Conference
Strength in Voices Conference, Image: Carla O’Day

Students from Washoe County middle and high schools took part Friday in team-building activities at Truckee Meadows Community College that dealt with a range of topics from inclusion to poverty.

About 350 students attended the third annual Strength in Voices conference. During the event, school administrators and staff members listened for how student ideas could be implemented.

To ensure a broad representation of students, the school district sent each school a random list of students from which to choose attendees for the conference. School administrators then had the option of selecting one other student not on the list, said Ben Hayes, chief school performance officer.

Hayes said the idea for a conference came from San Francisco-based WestEd, a non-profit research, development, and service agency that works with school systems nationwide.

Image: Carla O’Day

“The amount of people who showed up this year was phenomenal and the amount of participation was incredible,” said Jonah Yoelin, a Wooster High School senior. “We definitely had a large variety of students. No single group was over-represented.”

Sessions included how to get through tough times, bullying and mental health, how to support one’s peers, and why being a teen can be difficult, among others.

School board president Angela Taylor told students they had two options at school: being a thermometer or being a thermostat. Thermometers tell the temperature and thermostats change the temperature.

“Your job is to be a thermostat,” Taylor said.

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Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.