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An event that builds bridges with youth

Tara Jeffrey Zack Roos says this year’s Reaching Out Conference will be the biggest yet.
From left, co-emcee Ellie Fraser, presenter Laura Persichetti, co-emcee Zach Roos, presenter Donna Martin from the Family Counselling Centre Distress Line, and Warren Fitzgerald, of the Sarnia Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee and Rebound, make a group presentation to a previous Reaching Out Conference. Submitted Photo

Tara Jeffrey

Zack Roos says this year’s Reaching Out Conference will be the biggest yet.

“We’ve almost tripled what we offer throughout the day,” said the youth facilitator of the one-day community collaboration -- aimed at addressing youth mental health and wellness.

“We have a multitude of amazing speakers and performers, and we’ve added on a parent and caregiver piece as well.

The event is March 19 at SCITS from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes workshops, speakers, performers, and more -- all with a focus on mental health, wellness, suicide prevention, local resources, and enhancing relationships with youth and caring adults.

“It’s open to all ages, because we really want to build that connection between youth, adult, ally, caregiver, service provider, front line worker, etc.,” said Roos,

This is the final year for the event, launched in 2014 as part of a three-year funding commitment from the Ministry of Children and Youth Service’s youth suicide prevention strategy.

At the time, Roos was a 16-year-old St. Clair Secondary student looking to get more involved in his community.

“My mom had told me about this conference going on, and I wasn’t quite sure about it at first,” he said. “I figured I’d give it a shot, so I headed over, and it was amazing -- from the speakers to the performers, workshops and volunteers.”

In fact, Roos was so impacted he jumped at the chance to get involved in planning for the following year.

Through his connections with the Lambton Kent District School Board’s Equity and Inclusion Initiative and Sarnia-Lambton Rebound, Roos was able to get feedback from his peers and generate ideas for the next conference.

In 2015, attendance nearly doubled to 100 people.

“We had a fair number of college students attend, who really took a lot away to prepare for their own careers,” said Roos. “I had people messaging me saying, ‘Hey, those resources really helped me,’ and that really brightens my day to know I can have an impact.”

Organizers are expecting the largest turnout this year.

“We already have quite a few people signed up,” Roos said, noting that working with the event’s committee has been his favourite part.

“Everyone is so amazing, and I feel like an equal when I sit at that table,” he added. “Which is how I think we should all feel along the way.”

Community partners include0 both school boards, Lambton College, the Sarnia-Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee, Sarnia-Lambton Rebound, the Lambton Mental Wellness Centre, the Family Counselling Centre, St. Clair Child and Youth, Huron House Boys’ Home, the Children’s Aid Society, Sarnia Police, Bluewater Health and Aamjiwnaang First Nation.


WHAT: Reaching Out: A one-day youth, adult, ally, parent/caregiver conference for ages 12+

WHEN: Saturday, March 19, 2016, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: SCITS High School, Sarnia

DETAILS: RSVP by March 13 at [email protected] or call 519-344-2841

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