This past weekend, ATL stood for All Teens Lead. Just down the street from Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Atlanta office, thousands of teens gathered for the 46th Annual National Keystone Conference. All year long, these young people worked hard to raise funds to cover transportation, lodging and food expenses. Their diligence didn’t surprise me.
Keystone Clubs are leadership groups for youth ages 14 to 18 that focus on academic success, career preparation and community service. Keystone actively engages and empowers teens to lead. In fact, the steering committee that plans and organizes the annual conference is made up exclusively of Club teens. This year, the committee members really outdid themselves.
More than 1,800 Club teens traveled from across the world for the three-day event, making it the best-attended conference ever. That includes 227 teens from U.S. military installations. In fact, I met teens from Kwajalein Island, which I’d never even heard of! It’s part of the Marshall Islands, where they attend the BGCA-affiliated Namo Weto Youth Center on the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll installation. It took them two days to reach Atlanta! But the trip was well worth it.
Some 1,800 teens gathered in Atlanta this past weekend to attend a conference developed by teens and made for teens. These Keystone teens are just the best!
All weekend long, young leaders participated in workshops on various topics, including college preparedness, financial literacy, bullying prevention, robotics and film making. They also volunteered for service projects, including planting more than 1,900 trees throughout the city to replace trees lost to development.
But it wasn’t all work. On Saturday, hip-hop pioneers Doug E. Fresh, D.J. Spinderella of Salt-n-Pepa and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run DMC delivered motivational sessions. Keystoners also rocked to performances by singer Jordin Sparks and hip-hop artist B.o.B.
These teens are one of the most important groups in America. They are determined to graduate from high school with a plan for the future. To do that, they need all of our support.
Of course, Taco Bell Foundation for Teens is Keystone’s main sponsor and a supporter of all teens. For 18 years, they’ve supported our work with teens through our national partnership and at local Clubs. At the conference, Chief Operating Officer Rob Savage spoke to Taco Bell’s ongoing commitment to teens.
Rob talked with teens about Graduate for Más, a digital community where teens can pledge to graduate from high school. Once registered, they also earn points for educational support, including scholarships and mentoring resources. Rob is also a BGCA National Trustee and a true ambassador for all we do to support teens, kids and families.
Keystoners also heard from Foundation Executive Director Amy Cavanaugh. Or as I call her, “Queen of Taco Bell.” Amy talked about their mission to enable teens to achieve MAS – short for Mind, Active Lifestyle, and Spirit – and how it translates to their investment in Clubs and teens. In closing, she told us how their “signature work is with Boys & Girls Clubs. We couldn’t be more grateful to be part of it. We are ready to double-down on teens.”
So are we, Amy, so are we!