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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNTY FOCUS | NORTH: ANAHEIM

Youth Leadership Forum Starts Today

April 17, 1998|DEBRA CANO

Albert Aguirre, like most teenagers, knows the sinking feeling of peer pressure.

When the 17-year-old Garden Grove High School senior was in the eighth grade, a peer offered him drugs, urging him to "fit in."

But Aguirre resisted the pressure, recalling the advice of a role model at the local Boys and Girls Club: "He said, 'Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.' "

Aguirre will spread that message at a conference beginning today at the Anaheim Marriott hotel for about 1,500 leaders from Boys and Girls Clubs across the nation. The teens will discuss and debate peer pressure, suicide, self-esteem and other issues affecting youth.

"Young people have a lot of questions--and answers--about issues affecting them," said Pat Halberstadt, executive director of the Girls and Boys Clubs of Garden Grove.

The 31st National TEENSupreme Keystone Conference also will focus on leadership skills, cultural awareness and political and social activism.

"This is where we can unite as one," said Aguirre, president of his local United Keystone Club and one of 13 teen leaders from across the country selected to plan, manage and present the conference.

About 70 teens from Orange County Keystone Clubs--a leadership program for students 14 to 18 within Boys and Girls Clubs--will be attending the conference, said Adaleen McHale, director of programs and services for the Girls and Boys Clubs of Garden Grove, which is hosting the conference.

Teens earn their way to attend the conference, sponsored by the Taco Bell Foundation, by holding fund-raisers and seeking community support, McHale said.

Aguirre said he hopes teens leave the conference with expanded horizons.

"It seems that today, teens aren't opening their minds to what's out there. If someone gives them advice, they need to take that advice to heart and do something positive."

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