gowanda-principal-ydcThe first annual Cattaraugus County Youth Leadership Retreat took place on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, at Allegany State Park. Sixty-one youth representing all school districts from Cattaraugus County gathered for a day of training, education and fun in order to cultivate leadership qualities that they can take back to their communities and schools.

The retreat was sponsored by Healthy Cattaraugus County: A Drug Free Coalition (HCC) and coordinated by CAReS, Inc. Prevention Staff and the Youth Development Coalition under the leadership of Dr. Anthony Evans. Catherine Speroni, HCC Coalition coordinator, emphasized that it takes buy-in from all levels of our community to support our leaders of tomorrow.

“HCC is a coalition made up of a cross sector of individuals, businesses, parents, youth, faith-based, governmental and tribal officials, law enforcement, educators and other youth-serving agencies that encompass our county as a whole,” said Speroni. “This retreat was supported by all those groups in an effort to cultivate healthy young leaders who will go back to their schools, homes, and communities and stand for a healthier way of living, and the ability to make smart choices about the way they want to live their lives.”

The retreat featured an interactive session by Barry Broughton from AKT Combatives in Olean, N.Y.

“I designed the ‘Take Ground! …It’s Your Life!’ program to assist students in developing the skills and character traits needed to be strong leaders in their communities. The concepts of teamwork, critical thinking and commitment were reinforced by learning martial arts and self-defense techniques,” said Broughton.

The skills and concepts presented at the retreat will be further developed at the Youth Leadership Summit held at AKT Combatives Academy in August, also sponsored by HCC. Summit participants will learn how to take action and overcome obstacles, culminating with an exciting board breaking exercise.

Gowanda Central School responded to the retreat invitation with excellent attendance in students, volunteers and administrators.