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At-risk students attend Youth Challenge Conference

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LAWTON, Okla._Lawton's at-risk middle schoolers attended a conference that could help curb them from poor choices.

Students who have already fallen victim to trouble or come from troubled pasts were hand picked by counsels to attend Friday's Youth Challenge Conference at Cameron's CETES building. Law enforcement, teachers and counsels teamed up in hopes of giving these kids the extra push they need to make better choices.

Bullying, drugs and alcohol are all things children will have to face at some point or another and some of the kids at the conference already have. They learned how to say no and the consequences they'll face if they don't.

Gang outreach specialist, Rodney Mitchell, says the most important things these kids need to learn is how to define their lives.

"We each come here with a slate that we have to learn how to write out a personal vision and then pursue that vision based on the purpose and passion that's inside of us," said Mitchell.

Mitchell says kids fall victim to trouble because they have no clear direction to where they want to go.

"So once we start to define that, it plugs us into a mindset that strengthens us in ways that we don't fall victim to certain things that come our way."

Like sexting and cyber bullying, which Lawton detective, Nancy Lombardo, says are the two Internet safety problems they deal with the most in a world filled with technology right at your finger tips.

"I'm just trying to make them aware of what they're putting online,” said Detective Lombardo. “When they hit that send button, it's going out worldwide to everybody and they can never take that information back."

Lombardo says since social networking has become so popular, kids will post what they see their friends post without thinking about the consequences.

Learning how to empower themselves and build a sense of community in their own lives is what Mitchell says he hopes these kids will leave with today.

"So many times they think that they are kind of on their own or that no one really cares or there is no one to talk to. But, there is a multitude of sources they can start plugging into in their families and within their own communities," said Mitchell.

Mitchell says suicide is also a problem young people face. It's the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. Mitchell says if kids are empowered they wouldn't go to such extreme measures by realizing just how valuable they are.

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