A few months ago, Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) embarked on a virtual journey to provide youth advocates with opportunities to participate in the annual Youth Summit, while enduring the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Holding an in-person event is something staff knows how to do, but a virtual event was uncharted territory.
“We wanted to provide our youth advocates with a safe way to learn more about advocacy and coping with the pandemic and their mental health,” said Trimease K. Carter, youth engagement manager. “The Virtual Youth Summit also gave them something educational and engaging to do with their time.”
Carter worked with the Youth Summit Planning Committee to develop an engaging agenda that would capture the attention of not only youth, but also adults seeking more knowledge. Rather than asking registrants to sit behind a computer screen for an all-day event, the Committee decided to hold one-hour sessions over four weeks.
“We knew we would have to deliver an online Summit, and there were many tools to make that happen, so we decided to use an online streaming service that would allow us to broadcast live across multiple platforms,” said Carter. “We were able to broadcast all four sessions on our Facebook page and on our website, which provided an opportunity to reach more people.”
After planning, preparing, and practicing each session with all of the speakers, all four sessions were successful. Working with new technology had its challenges, and ensuring unobstructed internet connections were uncontrollable, however, going virtual was a positive move. Here’s a breakdown of what happened:
- Session One: COVID-19 and Coping featured DHEC’s Dr. Michael Kacka educating viewers on the coronavirus and how to maintain personal safety and health. The session also featured a panel of youth from across the state who spoke about how the coronavirus and the restrictions are affecting their lives.
- Session Two: Teen Advocates and Staying Healthy focused on the importance of choosing healthy foods and staying active, as well as a panel of youth and adults who talked about careers in public health and how participating in The HYPE Project has helped them personally.
- Session Three: Empathy and Self-Advocacy provided insight from ABLE South Carolina’s Dori Tempio and Asha Jones on how youth can make their voices heard and advocate for issues that are important to them.
- Session Four: Keynote Speaker Walter A. Clyburn Reed addressed viewers on how extraordinary circumstances create extraordinary people. Reed talked about current events, fighting for what is right, and being resilient. This session also featured a virtual talent show for youth from around the state to display their talents.
In the end, participation in the first-ever Virtual Youth Summit proved to be a success, as well as pulling off a live streaming the event. More than 104 viewers tuned in to the sessions with a total reach of more than 3,700 viewers so far. That number continues to increase as more and more people watch the videos on Facebook.
While the idea of hosting a live virtual event was challenging as a first-time endeavor, the Virtual Youth Summit seemed to be more of a success than initially anticipated. The experience for staff is leading to the possibility of future online learning opportunities for youth, and it serves as a back-up plan should the pandemic impede the 2021 in-person event.