The CGTI Blog is our spot for updating our communities on our latest news as well as the latest news on prevention, mental health, and other relevant topics. The CGTI Blog features guest spots from our Action Teams, Volunteer Staff and our Youth Advisory Committee!

My Leadership Journey

June 20, 2024

Ever since I was a little girl, I've always been a leader. I've never been one to shy away from the cameras, not raise my hand in class to answer a question, or not give  presentations or at church to participate in a game or activity. I've always known that I had leadership qualities, but I never knew how to fully take hold of them and become the leader I was truly called to be. In different parts of my journey, I struggled with the thought that I was not good enough to lead and thought it was better to follow instead. I eventually figured out that I was born to lead others with compassion, grace, and a steady hand. CGTI definitely helped me get to where I am today. Here is the story of how I got there.  

During elementary school when I lived in Texas, I never had any problem acting like I was a leader. But I would always end up bumping heads with other students because we wanted to do different things, and I always wanted to be in control. When I came to Illinois in 5th grade, I definitely shied away from being a leader because I was bullied, which lowered my self esteem and definitely brought up some insecurities. 

After that year, I transferred schools and did find it easier to be more like myself at school, though during 5th through middle school never had any issues leading at church within the kids ministry. At my new school during my 6th and majority of my 7th grade year, even though I was the new student, I was able to work well in group settings and make sure everyone was on task. When COVID-19 hit, I definitely missed the lack of community and working with people in person during that time period, which I would say affected my leadership skills because they were dormant for this time. 

In 8th grade, we were allowed, since I was at a smaller private school, to return to school using a hybrid model. It was definitely a bit awkward for me seeing people in person again and having to work with people and problem solve. But after a few months, I had finally found my groove, except this time, I was allowing harmful outside voices to influence my leadership decisions. At that time, though it is not something I'm proud of and not something I recommend doing, I did lead a small “revolt” against our gym teacher by telling everyone to not go to his classes on Wednesdays. It lasted a couple months and the majority of the class did it, which shows that yes I did have leadership qualities at this time but used them wrongly. 

Before I entered high school my parents told me to take the “bull by the horns” - in other words, to make the most of my four years. The first thing I did besides sitting in front of the class and communicating with teachers was to make an appointment with my counselor just to meet her and see who I would be working with for the next four years. She was the one who told me about Operation Snowball! It seemed like a fun way to get involved and use my leadership skills for a good cause so I joined. 

Before the end of the summer she told us about CGTI, a summer conference to enhance our leadership skills. I was all in! I came in not at all knowing what to expect and definitely had a major shock when I first got there but easily adjusted to the CGTI songs and games. I most certainly did not want to leave. But I knew I wanted to come back next year as a PALS. 

So, that next year, I came back and had the absolute best time and really began to understand what It meant to be a leader and to not only take care of others’ mental heath, but to also take care of my mental health, which I had definitely neglected that year. I was able to understand why people had always seen me as a leader and finally understood that I was good enough to be a leader. I felt more confident in my goals and dreams for the future and knew that CGTI and Snowball were going to help me for my future endeavors. So, this year I submitted my application for the Teen Ambassadors and got interviewed and got in. I knew that this was where I was meant to be and that I could be a good leader and help my community in the process. It isn't easy, and I've definitely had some bumps in the road. But through all of these experiences, especially going through CGTI as a participant, PALS, and hopefully this summer as Youth Staff, I can continue to use my leadership skills to create positive change in my community and in the world.


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My CGTI Experience

June 11, 2024

The first time going into CGTI, I had no idea what to expect.

The first few days while being at the conference, I had wanted to go home. As the days went on, I learned to let myself grow and expand my boundaries to let me be the person  I want to be. The workshops we had, the friends I made during the week, and the memories I had created with many other people, had me ready to come back for next time.

After leaving CGTI, there was a feeling of going home but also going away from home. 

After being left alone to reminisce over my CGTI experience, it led me to be more open with myself and let me be free. I truly believe that this conference is the reason why I now am who I am. I was asked the question, “What is your why?” I went home that night and started to think, “Do I have a why? How do I know if I even have a why for what I do?”

I found that my why is to make the people around me laugh and smile and spread positivity to others who may or may not need it. 

CGTI has opened me up in many ways I didn’t think would be possible - it’s now made me be more comfortable with myself and to do things because I want to do them and not to join in because others are doing it. I’ve learned how to be comfortable in my own skin and how to express that within my bubble of people that I know. 


Tagged As: CGTI
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The Importance of Healthy Environments

June 2, 2024

When thinking about mental health and prevention as young adults, it is a topic that is usually avoided by many. As we have grown, we have been plagued with overwhelming statistics pertaining to how large a percentage of our generation suffers from mental health issues. As a part of the Teen Ambassadors, I think about these things often and because I am attending a college that is quite far away from home, I thought I would talk about the importance of being in a healthy environment and knowing the impact that your environment can have on your mental health. 


A healthy environment plays a large role in maintaining good mental health. Whether it be a de-cluttered room, good air quality, etc. Having a specific area where you feel comfortable and relaxed can significantly impact the day you have. Generally, when people know that they have a safe space, they are more likely to reach out and do more social activities, engage with people around them, and experience a sense of belonging. The connectivity between you and your environment is important to how you view the situations you are in. 


Growing up, the environment that I was in was tense, anxiety-inducing, etc. Because I was younger, I hadn’t been aware of the things/outlets I could use to combat the emotions I would feel during these times. This strained environment caused me to begin to hide things from my siblings and mom and to ignore my schoolwork. I barely knew myself. As I entered junior high, I began to learn more things about myself and how to deal with the mixed emotions I would go through. I found new friends, surrounding myself with positive people, and worked towards finding outlets for myself. I feel confident sharing my tips with you because I know it can be difficult to start new/healthier habits. 

1. Open a Window and Let Some Sun In

While studying, cleaning, or simply waking up to get ready in the morning, think about opening up your blinds or a window. Fresh air and sunlight can help increase your mood almost immediately. 

2. Take a Walk 

Some days can be more stressful than others, and that is okay. The important thing is knowing what steps to take to take care of yourself. Go and take a walk and get in touch with nature. 


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Find Your Healthy Coping Mechanism

May 28, 2024

Have you ever woken up and you can feel your anxiety level rise as you think of everything you need to complete by the end of the day? Being anxious and having a high level of anxiety isn’t an abnormal thing. If you are constantly going all of the time you need to know when to allow your body a break. Being able to read signals your body is sending you plays a crucial part in your well-being.

Finding healthy and stress-free coping mechanisms can help you when your anxiety level is high or when you just need a break. I’ve come to learn that finding things that I enjoy or just making a to-do list can help reduce my anxiety levels. The same coping mechanism doesn’t work for everyone, and sometimes it takes a while until you find your preferred method.

Finding a healthy coping mechanism will not only help give your body a break it can also help lower stress, anxiety, worry, and even panic attacks. If you are looking for healthy coping mechanisms I have some listed below.

  • Write a to-do list

  • Complete a workout

  • Connect with supportive people

  • Practice meditation or yoga

  • Practice breathing techniques

  • See a counselor, therapist, or coach

  • Make sure to get enough sleep

  • Go for a walk


Tagged As: Mental Health
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It's All About Balance

May 21, 2024

Balancing all aspects of your life is very important. However, it is a challenging task. Balance is something that I am still trying to grasp today. Being a busy teenager involved in numerous activities inside and outside of school requires much of my time. Due to my busy schedule, areas of my social, physical, mental, and spiritual life can sometimes be negatively affected. It can be hard to attend all of your after-school clubs while wanting to hang out with your friends or go to the gym for the day.

That said, I believe it is important to allow ourselves to rest and take a break. Sometimes taking a reset is what we need to be able to have a healthy and effective start to our day. When I feel that I am not properly balancing my life, I take a step back and analyze what I can say no to. Once I’ve removed a stressor, I then try to better organize myself and my day so that all areas of my life benefit from whatever I am doing!


Tagged As: CGTI Mental Health
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Perfectionism and Comfort Zones

May 14, 2024

You know that quote, “Your comfort zone will kill you?” Do you also know the saying, “There is no such thing as perfect?” These ideas had me struggling for a long time. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go because of the fear of messing up and not being considered “perfect.” My comfort zone is not what most would consider though. I think of mine as putting so much effort in, that I feel safe about it being enough. I felt uncomfortable to slow down and listen to what my mind and body were telling me, I didn’t want to go unnoticed and I wanted to push myself to be the best I could be while also staying on top. I never gave myself a break and struggled to find balance in my life with school, sports, and other activities I was a part of. I now realize that’s not how anyone thrives, and I’m learning the new idea of “perfectly imperfect.”

I’ve been what they call a “perfectionist” all of my life. I’ve always been a hard worker and wanted good results, which when I was younger, I usually achieved. It took me some time to learn as I’ve gotten older that just because you put tons of effort into something, doesn’t mean it’s always going to result in your favor, and that’s okay. Previously, I would have thought of this as a failure and been scared to reach out of my comfort zone because I didn’t want to look “weak” or “imperfect” when attempting something I had never even tried before … I know … sounds dumb now that I’m older. Of course, people are born with natural strengths and abilities, but no one is going to try something new and be “perfect” at it the first time around. No one ever achieves this unattainable idea of “perfection.” We are all students of life and learning is a huge part of that.

A lot of my inner conflict came from my wanting to find a purpose. I wasn’t sure for the majority of high school how I was an important part of my community, and if I even mattered. I felt if I could work hard to be better at things than others, I would be noticed and feel like I was making something of myself. This only led me to burn out and some scary mental health scares that lead me to a different way of approaching things.

I started involving myself a lot with our students in my high school with special needs. I had always been passionate about helping others achieve their goals and feeling good about themselves, but in the past couple of years I have found a true love for it. I’m in what we call our MC classroom during my gym. It stands for “multiple capabilities” classroom and is designed to help students with varying disabilities. I work with them in communicating with devices and signs, learning their personalities, and helping them feel part of our student body. That is adapting games so they can play from their wheelchairs and treating them just like any other teenager. They are all high school kids with high school brains. They just have different ways of expressing themselves and communicating. They have taught me to slow down and ENJOY the little things. I was moving so quickly before, I would miss special moments. They celebrate everything, big and small, for everyone around them. I saw that we can all use some of that too regardless of our situation.

These past couple of months have been the best months of my life. I have learned to fail and know that those failures don’t make me any less of a person. I’m involved with the people I love being with and take pride in my efforts in school and sports. I have spent more time with my family and have been able to connect with them more. I have discovered so much of myself that I never knew because I was so exhausted working to achieve “perfection.” I’m going to college to work in the medical field specializing in taking care of kids with special needs. So much of my life has been unfolded by simply letting go of my unreachable standards that I would always keep raising. So, if you get two things from reading through my story, know that the idea of “perfection” and your comfort zone are just distractions from you living the life you want to live.


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From Participant to Staff

May 22, 2023

Like most of the people I have had the pleasure of meeting at CGTI, I started my journey as a participant. The first year I was welcomed to camp, I was confused by the overwhelming kind Volunteer Staff, I was nervous about making new friends and I could not wait for the week to be over. However, these feelings of doubt only lasted for that first day. By the end of my first week the contagious energy and joy of those around me made me wish to never leave. 

That’s why when I reached the age of deciding whether I should become Staff or not, I decided that it was time for me to transition from a participant to Staff.

This can be difficult especially when you have peers that are younger than you. For me, I had to learn how to balance leadership with friendship. In order to have the most productive camp, it is important to have authority with kindness. What I mean by this is that even though you may be the same age as others who aren’t on Staff, there are times when you have to make sure that everyone stays on track. Even with the responsibilities, being a leader brings so much joy. Being able to watch others find their voice and become more sure in themselves is incredible. 

If you are on the fence about continuing to be a part of CGTI by joining Staff next year here are a few benefits.

•Life long friendships 

•Helping others

•Gaining a sense of purpose

•Speaking & Communication skills

•Learning to delegate

Being a part of Volunteer Staff is incredible opportunity and journey. Ask a Staff member this Summer about what part of the experience is important to them and consider applying in 2024!


Tagged As: CGTI Staff YAC
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I Am Just Getting Started

May 9, 2023

I grew up without my father. He was incarcerated for multiple reasons ranging from drugs, weapon charges, and fleeing the police. He never saw any of my first days of school, he never got to go to a father-daughter dance with me, he never got to take me to get my favorite food, he never got to do anything that a father should do with their daughter. He was eventually released late 2018, on parole. He finally got to come to my first volleyball game in the 8th grade. I will never forget the happiness I felt seeing him come inside that gym and cheering for me. This was a start of a new chapter in my life, for the both of us. He went to my 8th grade graduation. He was so proud - it was clear he was ecstatic about seeing one of his children graduate for the first time. He was so proud of me. I was always my dad's “Golden Child.” Before me, my dad had never gotten to see any of his children graduate - he has five of us - and it turns out, I'd be the first and last one he would see graduate.

At this point in my life, I was at my peak. I graduated 8th grade, I was in AAU for basketball, I was about to start high school, and my father was showing signs of actually wanting to be a part of my life. I felt like I was getting everything I wanted. I started high school, and it was going great. I had my first Homecoming coming up, I was active in sports per usual, I had a ton of friends. I was living the life of an average high school student in America. This was all destroyed on September 22, 2019. My father was  murdered outside of his home on a Sunday afternoon. I remember it vividly. I was home from church sitting in my recliner, and I got a facetime call from a random number. I declined it at first, and then they called again, so I picked up. There I saw my dad, my world, the man who made me, lying lifeless on the ground. My mom and I drove over there immediately, and I just ran and grabbed my dad. The paramedics and police had to pull me off of him, but I was destroyed. My life has changed ever since.

Since then, I have used that pain and hurt to put fire under my feet to become an activist within my community. I have been on the news speaking up for children who lost their dads due to gun violence. I am apart of Young Leaders in Action, I serve on the board for the Action Team and I am on the executive board. I am apart of Simp Inc., which combats gun violence in my county and teaches kids positive ways to have fun without committing crime. I have been an honor roll student for the past three years of high school. I got invited to Washington D.C for a youth summit for Law & CSI. I was invited to go to Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute Conference, which deals with prevention and how to impact the community for the youth, and I also received a certificate for litigation from Brandeis University online course. I did not allow my father's death to keep me in a deep depression - I used that to create change in my community so no child will have to experience the gut-wrenching pain I felt. I am not done yet with the work I have left to do. I am just getting started.


Tagged As: YAC
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Living With Disabilities

April 24, 2023

We as human beings grow up to be people that are encouraged to grow in the world and explore and evolve the greater natures of life. But what happens if you feel you were born differently from everyone else? 

In this life, it’s easy to forget the problems others have in their daily functioning than we do. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 adults live with a disability. That’s about 26% of our population. 

Many people live with disabilities such as learning disabilities, and mobility disabilities. Sometimes when they are young, they can feel shifts of sadness or depression because of their disabilities or things they can not control.

Embracing our Differences

In this world, being someone different is something we all need to see and embrace. Being different now can be a light to people who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Embracing our differences comes from understanding our own many characteristics, failures and faults. It is up to our character mindsets that can help us to be a difference maker in our lives or the lives of friends and family.

CGTI offers that despite our many differences, we can make a positive change in the world, whether that be in our community homes, state and schools. CGTI is more than just the program it offers to our young teenagers and young adults. It is an uplifting welcome to all people that are wanting a change!



Tagged As: Mental Health YAC
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Leaving for College

April 10, 2023

I will be finished with my last year of high school in 9 weeks. I will graduate in 72 days. I will be starting college in 164 days. Those facts all make me very excited and nervous all at the same time. Leaving for college can be scary but I also know that it’s going to be a fun new experience for me. I also draw comfort from the fact that I will only be an hour away from home. Another thing that helps me feel more prepared for meeting so many new people is my experiences with CGTI and Operation Snowball. In college, I will be studying Early Childhood Education to earn my bachelor’s degree. I am hoping that my experiences with CGTI will help me in my area of study. Leadership qualities that I have been able to improve at CGTI will be a tremendous asset to my studies and future career. 

Attending CGTI Events has let me make a variety of new friends and I hope that the skills I have learned at making new friends will transfer over to college as well. Introducing yourself to someone new can seem really scary but a majority of the time they are trying to work up the courage to introduce themselves to someone new as well. Everyone wants to make connections in a new place to feel at home, so being too scared only delays the feeling of comfort. The advice that I am giving myself as I finish my senior year and get ready to start college is to always remember that you may regret chances you don’t take. So my point is to go big and hope for the very best while stepping out of your comfort zone.


Tagged As: CGTI YAC
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Start Embracing "Break Culture" This Spring!

March 27, 2023

Tagged As: CGTI YAC Mental Health
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CGTI 2022 Updates

June 22, 2022

There are just 25 days until we're "Back and Better Than Ever" at CGTI fully for the first time in three years! As we get closer to July, there are a few updates we wanted to share. 


Acceptance Packets

Acceptance packets will be emailed to all registered participants today! These packets include information about registration, the CGTI agenda, packing lists, and more. Included with the packets, there is a form to fill out roommate selection, workshop selection and our CGTI survey! This survey helps ensure that we are able to host the best events possible and that CGTI is making a positive impact on those who attend. Anyone who does not fill out a form will be randomly assigned both workshops and a roommate - if your school or team sent a rooming list, those will be used for roommate selection.

If you indicated on your form that you will be taking medication at CGTI or that you are currently seeing a doctor for any medical reasons, then you will also receive a medical form to ensure that our contracted nurse has all the information she needs. 

Please make sure to read the acceptance packet thoroughly so that you are prepared for arrival and dismissal times, dorm needs and the event overall. 

If you have any questions about the packet or any of the forms included, you can email our VP of Program, Ashley Webb, as 


Theme Days

A fun part of the packing process is preparing for our Theme Days! Each day at CGTI, we incorporate a Theme Day to add a little extra fun. You can find the Theme Days below - have fun and get creative! 

Sunday - School/Action Team/Operation Snowball shirt from your community 

Monday - Theme Shirt (provided at registration)

Tuesday - Hats and Tattoos-day (some tattoos will be provided but feel free to bring your own! You can also purchase a hat at the CGTI store.) 

Wednesday - Heroes and Villains Day

Wednesday Night Celebration - A Night Full of Stars (gold and silver theme)

Thursday - Neon Day (check out our CGTI store for neon options!) 


CGTI Store

Speaking of Theme Days, we'll have some options that match those themes at the CGTI Store! We're excited to announce what merch will be available at our store soon, but you can expect some great clothing items as well as functional items like water bottles.

The store takes cash and credit/debit. We'll also be selling snacks during free time and at night during dorm floor free time. We hope you're ready to rock the CGTI swag! 



General Sessions 

If you follow us on social media, (@cg_ti on Instagram, @CGTI12 on Twitter and Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute on Facebook), you may have seen that we've announced all our General Sessions! We are so thrilled to have such an incredible group of keynote speakers joining us for the week to share their knowledge, passion and leadership with us. Make sure to give them a follow on their own socials, check out the inspiration behind their incredible talents and share some CGTI warm fuzzies with them before their arrival!

Sunday Yvonne Williams 

Monday Mykee Fowlin

Tuesday - De'Marco Fomby

Wednesday - Javier Sanchez 


We are counting down the days until we are together once again working to make an impact across our state. We hope you're as excited as we are. We will see you all so SOON!

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Cultural Competency and Making an Impact

June 14, 2022

As we get closer and closer to July, something we're thinking about over here at CGTI is action planning. One of our favorite parts of the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute is that our teams and individuals have specified time to sit down and think about the impact they're making in their communities and how they can go above and beyond to keep propelling that impact forward. 

Whether action plans are focused on prevention efforts in town, positivity campaigns within schools or something in between, all these plans are created around the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF). The SPF is the five-step process that allows plans to be efficient, effective and evaluated for success. The five steps - assess, capacity, plan, implement, evaluate - make up a well-rounded and comprehensive guide to action planning and creating positive change. 

There are two pieces of this plan that should be applied at every step: sustainability and cultural competency. Cultural competency remains a key ingredient in making an effective plan and is something important to think about at every stage and step of your process. Cultural competency means focusing on all the people that make up your community and what makes those people: their ages, their ethnicities and heritages, their gender identities, their orientations, their religions, their family dynamics, their income and so, so much more. By considering culture, we can make action plans that are inclusive, sustainable and successful for a whole community. 

As you move through the steps of the SPF, there are many times and ways to think about how you're including cultural competency in the process! 

  • Assess: Where are you getting your data from? It is well-rounded and representative of your entire community? What gaps might exist? Is it inclusive and accessible? Does it acknowledge any disparities or systemic barriers? 
  • Capacity: Are the people you are reaching out to for support and help with your plans aware of and supportive of your community at large? Do they have a wide scope or reach in your community or an understanding of your target audience? How are you acknowleding what barriers and disparities might be in place as you plan?
  • Plan: Is your plan (your event, campaign, messaging, etc.) accessbile to everyone? Does the planning process involve members of the community that represent a wide range of the population? Are you prioritizing addressing disparities and obstacles? Is communication open?
  • Implement: Does your plan (event, campaign, messaging, etc.) come in other languages or have captions? Does your event have wheelchair access or body-inclusive activities? Is the terminology your using readable and understood by all ages? Is the plan designed and delivered to reach your audience at large? Is it tailored to different learning styles and open to different approaches? 
  • Evaluate: Did your plan have the intended impact? Do you feel like you were able to reach your community at large? Do you feel like everyone in your community was represented or acknowledged by your plan? Were there any gaps in your plan that can be addressed in the future?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says, "by considering culture at each step, planners can help to ensure that members of diverse population groups can actively participate in, feel comfortable with, and benefit from prevention practices." This is always the goal of our action planning process at CGTI - to make plans that create an impact for everyone

We hope that as the summer continues on and you have the chance to get out an experience your community and the things, processes, people and ideas that make it so, that you feel ready and equipped to bring that knowledge to your own action planning process! 


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Summer Prevention Programming

June 6, 2022

Summer is here! The school semester might be ending or over for you, but that doesn't mean prevention has to stop for the season. Whether you're spending the summer relaxing and enjoying your free time or you're working with organizations like Youth Advisory Boards/Councils and other local prevention groups, summer can offer a lot of opportunities for prevention progress. 

Of course, the first summer prevention programming event you can add to your calendar is the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute! CGTI offers a week full of skill building, education development and networking for student leaders. Throughout the week of our July conference, students can engage in workshops and keynotes about prevention, mental health, future readiness, goal setting and more. In both large and small groups, there is time to process information, share ideas, plan for the upcoming semester and exchange thoughts on community prevention efforts. This is a great way for Action Teams to connect before the school year begins again in August, to set intentions and brainstorm big, new ideas. CGTI is also great for individuals, Youth Advisory Councils/Boards and local organizations with similar missions. If you are looking for prevention programming to include this season or a way to bridge between semesters, CGTI offers the perfect mid-summer event to keep us connected to purpose and passion. Registration is open at and we do have scholarships available! 

If your Action Team has paused or slowed programming for the summer, now is a great time to brainstorm for the upcoming school year by getting out and about in your community and observing! The minute details that might just seem like a part of the fabric of everyday life in your town - like gambling advertisements at gas stations or alcohol promotions for summer celebrations - are things you can keep in mind to address when you return with your peers. By understanding what is happening in your community year-round, you can make plans that foster longevity and remain effective and efficient outside your programming schedule. This is also a great time to see what resources your community offers - where can youth go, especially during the summer when teachers, school counselors, etc., might not be available to them to learn about mental health, substance use prevention, and giving back? If you want to make sure that you're taking part in these iniatives during all seasons, this is a great time to research what Youth Advisory Boards/Councils or coalitions might be doing work in your town! Are there other prevention programs or youth groups that have similar missions and goals that you work on during the fall, winter and spring at school? 

If you are already a part of some of these programs, what specifically during the summer needs attention? What information or programming might youth miss out on in the summer when there isn't as much structure, schedule or school? How can you share this information with them? As well, what issues do we see that present specifically during the summer - think about holidays that focus on alcohol consumption, easy access to substances when youth are home when adults may not be for longer periods of time, etc. 

If you're looking for more individual prevention programming during the summer, this might be a great time to look at webinars, previously recorded sessions on Youtube or for content from speakers you've previously seen at prevention events like CGTI to learn more about the field in your down time! Websites like SAMHSA, NAMI, NIDA and more, have information on general substance use prevention and education too! 

Overall, prevention programming doesn't have to pause for the Summer because school does - each season provides us with different ways to engage, educate and grow as individuals and with our communities at large. 


Tagged As: CGTI Prevention
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Live From Charleston, It's Tuesday Night Live!

June 1, 2022

CGTI 2022 is just around the corner and that means it's time to start preparing for some of our favorite Teen Institute traditions! 

One of CGTI's most beloved activities is Tuesday Night Live, our annual talent show. The talent show takes place Tuesday evening and is led by our Activity Coordinators. Any participant is welcome to participate - try outs are held by our ACs during Monday and Tuesday free time - and to share there talents with us! Our PALS participants always peform a group number together of their making. 

Talents in the past have ranged from singing and dancing to poetry reads and skits to funny stories and jokes and beyond. The stage is open to any and all talents, and participants are welcome to bring items from home - like intruments - for the event! Try outs are required to ensure that the ACs are prepared for any specific AV needs (music, microphone, stand, etc), that there's enough time for all performers and that performances are age appropriate. We'll have microphones, music-playing capabilities, and a piano available. The rest is up to you! 

Performing during Tuesday Night Live is a great opportunity to take healthy risks, get out of your comfort zone and create memories with friends new and old. This is a time for you to be creative, have fun and enjoy one of the most special parts of the CGTI experience - its open and positive atmosphere. It's also a great opportunity as an audience member to cheer on your fellow CGTI family members who are taking those risks to get on stage. 

Tuesday Night Live has remained a favorite part of the Teen Institute for decades now because of the supportive, energetic and familial atmosphere it provides. This is your time to shine and your time to appreciate the shine that others have too!  We hope you'll consider taking part, but if you're more comfortable and excited to take it all in from your seat, we look forward to clapping and singing with you too. 

If you have any questions about Tuesday Night Live, a talent you want to perform or CGTI, don't forget that you can reach out to us on social media or at or! 


Posted In: Positivity
Tagged As: CGTI
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The Idea of Self-Concept

May 26, 2022

Self-Concept is defined as “an idea of the self-constructed from the beliefs one holds

about oneself and the responses of others”. It is how we view ourselves, which is why it

is very important that one's self-concept is healthy and positive.

Some ways I help improve my self-concept is:

- Take long walks

- Start a new hobby

- Read a new book

- Watch a movie

- Volunteer with local organizations

- Cook

Ways to maintain self-concept:

- Have a schedule

- Set time for relaxation

- Build good communication skills

- Seek out new opportunities

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Dealing With School Stress

May 16, 2022

Grades, scholarships, and college - all of these things give high schoolers today so much stress in their daily lives. This stress can negatively affect these teens' lives in many ways. So, how can students today mitigate their stress surrounding school?

Calming Techniques

I find that calming techniques really help during a stressful situation. One simple one that can be incredibly helpful is breathing in for five seconds and then out for five seconds. Another calming technique that may be helpful to you during a stressful situation would be to look around yourself and name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and finally, one thing you can taste. 

Taking Care of Yourself

School can be stressful and feel very time consuming. However, taking care of yourself and your body should always be your first priority. For instance, if you are feeling overly stressed, try eating a meal, taking a shower, or even just simply going to bed. 

Do What Makes You Happy

Something I find helps me when I am most stressed while doing my calculus homework is stopping whatever problem I'm currently on and just doing something I find joy in. Whether that is going to my friend's house, taking a nap, or going rollerskating. It is always a nice way to de-stress from the school I am doing. 

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Why is Time Management Important?

May 9, 2022

By responsibly managing time, you can achieve more work in less time by being more efficient. Completing more work in less time can reduce the stress of having many incomplete things all at once. Having too many incomplete things going on can increase the feeling of being overwhelmed, which in turn can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Finishing more work efficiently can lead to more free-time and lower stress levels. Follow the tips below to manage your time more efficiently! 



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The Do's and Don'ts of Helping Someone Experiencing a Mental Health Challenge

May 2, 2022

If you suspect someone is having mental health-related problems, you shouldn’t just ignore it. Assume you are the only person who is going to reach out to the person because your words will matter.

If a quiet person in your life starts to speak out or a loud person in your life starts to get quiet, this could be a sign that they have mental health-related problems. Even if you don’t know the person, but you notice the shift in their behavior you can tell someone in their friend group or a family member.

Ways to approach this type of situation in noticing changed behavior is to mention the changed behavior you have noticed and to express your concern. Based on how close the person is to you, you might approach this situation differently just remember to be sincere.

Check out these do's and don'ts and remember them next time you consider reaching out to someone! 

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The Road to Staff

April 18, 2022

Ignite Your Passion

The Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute is a place where you can find a community while helping your community. You can start attending the summer camp in middle school. As a middle school participant you get to have fun while learning about substance use prevention and how to become a better leader in your community. That first year is a year like no other. Everything is new. It's like stepping to a whole new world with so many possibilities. It can feel weird at first, everyone cheering and dancing while you are just a shy middle schooler, trust me I know. That foreign experience is beneficial, especially at that age. Feeling safe to be your authentic self in an environment makes it easier to make friends and learn things. That first year for me I started to figure out who I was by discovering what I wanted to do. At the age of 12, your world is a lot smaller and time passes differently. In middle school making an action plan of what to do at school feels like a set plan for the future. At least that's how it felt for me. I saw the ability to do something that gave me a purpose.

Color Your Future

Part of working on an action plan is making sure you are maintaining it year round. How you can make sure you are doing that is by going to Mid-Year. Mid-Year is a great place to reconnect with all your new friends from over the summer. It's also a great place to keep developing your leadership skills and action plan. You can see a future and you can set goals, but if you don’t put in the work nothing is going to change. As a middle school participant, you are the youngest group with so much to learn still. You are going to make mistakes; it's all a part of the journey of learning. Even though you are a part of the youngest group at camp you are a part of the group of leaders from your community. You are a leader and learning makes a huge difference. You have the courage to go to an unknown place and learn about preventing substance use and creating an all inclusive environment.

Defying Gravity 

Middle school comes to an end, and once you graduate from eighth grade you can become a high school participant. As a high school participant, you get to make more friends. You still get to enjoy workshops and general sessions. I would say the biggest difference is Discussion Groups. Discussion Groups in middle school are with people closer to your age and you have in common that you are all still new to TI. As a high school participant you are thrown into a group with people who have more experience being a leader in their communities. The great part about that is you get to learn from your peers not just about TI and being a leader, but also about what to expect in high school. The summer after eighth grade for me was a chance to prepare myself for starting my freshman year.


If I had to pick one year as a participant that I enjoyed the most, it would have to be my fourth year at CGTI. After going through middle school and my first year of high school, I felt at home when going back. When you get to know the people and get into the groove of how the days go both at Mid-Years and over the summer, you have more time to have fun. After three years of learning and growing out of the awkwardness, you get to enjoy the summer even more than before. What I learned is that you don’t feel weird participating in workshops and taking healthy risks once you become more and more conformable. Not only that but you can take even more leadership roles in your community. Age does equal more responsibilities. After being a high school participant, you can become a PALS member. A PALS member is a Participant with Advanced Leadership Skills. It is like training for being on Youth Staff. It's a lot more learning and practicing having a larger role in the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute. You still do action planning and watch the general sessions. Again the biggest difference is Discussion Groups. In PALS, you have PALS meetings where you learn things. You still process things from the workshops throughout the day, but the activities are different. Taking on being a PALS member is like saying you're ready to take a larger step in your leadership journey -  both in your community and in CGTI. PALS only happens in the summer,  meaning you could do PALS and still be a high school participant in the winter.


Just like PALS, Youth Staff only happens in the summer. For PALS you can do that the summer after your junior year. Youth Staff you do once you have done PALS and complete high school. Obviously in the past there have been exceptions and the circumstances of the world affected how TI did things in 2020 and 2021. Now we are back and better than ever. Youth Staff was such a special experience for me I will never forget. It was a long journey to get to be on Youth Staff and one worth taking. My world is a lot bigger than what it was in middle school. I had the typical moments of doubt about whether or not staff was for me. The great thing about Youth Staff is you get to learn, practice and have larger roles. You are there for staff trainings. You get to co-facilitate Discussion Groups and action planning. You have more responsibilities and with that comes the freedom of getting to learn how you fit in with the staff group. You are no longer working with your school peers, you are working with people who taught you. You get to spend time learning more from them, but also getting to know them. You never stop making friends at CGTI and you never stop growing into a better leader.

Home Is Where CGTI Is 

Home is where the heart is, home is where your chosen family is. A home is a safe place where you are allowed to grow. Where you can leave and come back, even if it's been years, and you are welcomed in with open arms. Home is where unconditional love and acceptance are. Home is an environment where you can learn how to be a better member of your community. Home is the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute. That is the biggest thing I learned throughout the years because after the time spent growing through CGTI, it really becomes your home. It becomes your family where you get to pass on traditions and wisdom to new members. Where you still get to learn from those who have been around longer than you. That's what being on staff truly is: you are a part of a family and you have an important role to play. Being on Volunteer Staff is just one step towards even more. I am just at the point of being on Volunteer Staff and one day I may be on the Leadership Team. Growth in CGTI truly never stops. The love for the people and missions of IABH, Snowball, Focus, and CGTI keeps growing. You can start at any point and be welcomed in with open arms. You could have no experience or a lot of experience in Snowball and CGTI regardless you are welcomed in with open arms. The journey to staff doesn’t just take one path. I told my journey based on what I experienced. Every single member of staff experienced a different journey and so will you. 





Tagged As: CGTI Mid-Year Staff
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Awkwardness, Social Anxiety, and Sonder

March 21, 2022

Humans, by nature, are social creatures. Humans are born to share ideas and emotions with each other. The very wellbeing and survival of a human being is significantly rooted in the social connections in one’s life. We even see it in our closest relatives, apes, who have their own family structures. So why, why is it that no matter how much we desire friendships, how much we want love, why is it so awkward to approach someone new? 

Human brains are naturally pessimistic. It’s very easy for the brain to consider the worst possible scenario, and when we approach someone new that’s exactly what we expect. We expect them to judge us, look at us suspiciously, or take advantage of us. 

It’s very much normal for the brain to generate these thoughts because it’s trying to protect us from being hurt. Our brains are always cautioned with new things. What’s great about our brains, though, is that they’re ours. Just like you can control the way  your hair looks, you can control how your brain reacts to people all with simple  knowledge, and it all takes one word: Sonder. Sonder is the realization that each  random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. So why is this important? Well it means that just like you were blast processing insecure thoughts before meeting that new person, they were doing the same. They too were worried about their smell. They too thought they had dressed too casual. The truth is, the #1 thing everybody has constantly on their mind is themselves. And it’s that fact that you can use to become a sociable person. 

Now this isn’t to say that everyone is a selfish egocentric person. All this means is that people are worried about sustaining themselves before even thinking of others. Let’s say you had to wear a really ugly sweater to school because all of your stylish clothes are dirty. Of course the first thought in your mind at school is how everybody is going to see how ugly your sweater is. Sure, someone may see it, but that someone is also too worried about how their hair looks to even think about making a judgement on your sweater. So next time you have a really awkward moment with someone, just know that by the time you get home they’ve already forgotten about it. They are busy thinking about their own awkward moments and mishaps. 

The truth is people are likely not thinking about your agenda or your insecurities, so really, they’re under your control! If people are constantly taking in only what's around them, then the world will see you for who you want to be. The judgements you place on yourself will be the judgements the world accepts.

The greatness of sonder is that you have all of the responsibility for who you are to yourself. It comes with realizing the anonymity of real life that potential for an enjoyable future can be seen. The world is a collection of over 7 billion unique, connected, and individual stories where it’s easy to get lost and feel small. Make yours stand out.

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Passion For Compassion

March 15, 2022

The Oxford dictionary defines compassion as, “sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering or misfortune of others.” This definition isn’t exactly on the positive side and makes compassion seem like it’s only meant for other people, when it’s important to have compassion for yourself and others. There are two different types of compassion: compassion for others and self-compassion. Both of these are equally important especially now. So join me on the passion for compassion journey as we explore compassion for others and yourself. 

Throw Compassion Around Like Confetti !!!!

Compassion is a combination of kindness and empathy, which is something everyone needs. However, sometimes it can be easy to forget. In this COVID-19 era, we quite literally have had a wall dividing us from those around us. It can make it harder to connect, express emotions, and help each other. Normally when a friend was having a bad day all you had to do was be their shoulder to cry on. Hug them and reassure them that everything was going to be okay. Sadly, we can't always do that anymore without the risk of COVID-19 coming into play. This can make it harder to be there for your friends and others. So that's where what I like to call COVID compassion comes into play. Here is how you can be there for your friends while keeping six feet apart:

  • It is the digital age so give them a call, shoot them a text, host a Zoom meeting. Humans are social by nature and that doesn't have to stop just because it feels like everything else has. 

  • Go on a social distance walk in nature.

  • Watch a movie together over Zoom.

  • Be a sympathetic ear. Just listen to what they have to say and offer support.

  • You can write letters to them. Letters are more personal and they do take some time to arrive, so it will make your friend's day when it does

Self Care Isn't Selfish!!!!

Here are some self-care gifts to give yourself:

  • Reach out to people you have not talked to in a long time. While writing this I sent a message to three friends I haven't talked to in a while, and honestly, it was the smartest decision I've ever made. It opened a door that otherwise wouldn't have been opened if I didn't send a message. We have been isolating ourselves for so long that we sometimes forget that we have the world at our fingertips. Because connecting with others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

  • Plan a future trip you want to take when it is safe to do so. People are starting to get pandemic paranoia causing them to worry about when this will all end. Therefore hope is the most important gift you can give yourself. 

  • Limit social media usage. 

  • Pay attention to your feed. If it is more on the negative side, try and find more positive things to be looking at. It's one thing to be informed on current events. It is another to let the negativity of others dictate your life.

  • Create a playlist of music that you like and lifts your spirit. 

  • Trade in the COVID mask for a spa mask and give yourself a spa day. It is important to unwind no matter who you are - it never hurts to treat yourself. 

  • Laugh. People sometimes underestimate the power of laughter. Laughter is the best medicine. Even though it can't cure Coronavirus, it can cure the feelings of sadness and fear we all felt at some point during this pandemic.

Golden Nuggets:

  • Laughter is the best medicine. 

  • Treat yourself how you want others to treat you.

  • Keep it positive. 


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The Benefits of Yoga, Meditation and Relaxation for Teens

February 9, 2022

Despite the fact that yoga is becoming extremely popular among adults as a way to stay fit and stay healthy, most teenagers and young adults do not take it seriously. Personally, I was introduced to yoga because it was the only PE class available in my schedule junior year. I was very skeptical about it at the beginning, but with time yoga became an inevitable part of my morning routine, not only because of its physical benefits but psychological as well. Some of the scientifically proven benefits of yoga include better heart health, improved eating habits, reduced inflammation, and migraines. However, I think one of the biggest benefits of practicing yoga is the positive impact it has on our mental health. 

As a high school student, I do not necessarily experience big stresses in my life such as buying a house or losing a job. However, just like most teenagers, my life is full of constant small stressors  such as preparing for tests and AP exams, applying to colleges, managing school, and personal  life, performing well at sports, etc. Combined with the peer pressure and the pressure of deciding  our future, all these stressors on the developing teenage brain can lead to anxiety attacks or even  depression. This is when yoga comes into place. 

Practicing yoga 20-30 minutes a day gives me enough time to forget about whatever worries I have and allows me to focus on my body and mind. Relaxing yoga flows - Vinyasa Yoga - not only calms me down but helps me recharge and set the intention for the day. When I focus on not falling out of my pose or reaching my toes when stretching, I do not think about the upcoming tests or college essays I need to write, which helps me relieve my anxiety and decrease my stress levels. When I feel especially stressed, I like to do Yin Yoga, which is a slow meditative flow. If you are a beginner, it might be harder to hold some of the poses for a longer period of time, but this is why breathing is very important. 

Breathing is one of the most essential parts of yoga because it helps you remain focused and bring your attention back if it wanders. During the practice, it helps me remain balanced and deepens the stretch. I really enjoy doing 4-7-8 breathing (inhale for the count of four, hold the breath for seven and exhale for the count of eight) after my workout because it helps me calm down my body and my mind. By performing breathing exercises regularly, you will not only benefit psychically but also mentally, as breathing techniques are widely used to decrease stress levels and increase awareness of an individual's feelings and emotions. There is a wide variety of breathing exercises, so you can definitely find the one that would benefit you.

After a regular yoga practice or a workout, I like to spend a couple of minutes doing Yoga Nidra, which is a guided meditation. It is a great way to end the practice and set your final intention for the day. It helps me completely relax and recharge. Moreover, meditation is a great way to connect with your inner self, understand your worries and your feelings, which is also why yoga is used to fight anxiety and depression. It promotes self-love and encourages positive self-talk. You can also try doing Restorative Yoga to help relax your mind. Having a routine and knowing that your yoga mat is always there, waiting for you, can be very helpful in stressful situations and can even help fight depression. 

Lastly, doing yoga regularly promotes good sleep quality. Let's be honest, it's very difficult to find a high school student who is getting a good quality eight-hour sleep regularly. Practicing  yoga can definitely help with that. Whether you decide to do a quick 10-minute flow or a short meditation before going to bed, you will feel more relaxed and fall asleep easier. Therefore, yoga can be a great tool when fighting insomnia. And I think everyone would agree that a better sleep quality means better overall well-being, and more happiness, which we all desire so much.


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Tips to Stay Positive

January 24, 2022

Posted In: Positivity Attitude
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CGTI's College, Career & Resource Fair

May 3, 2019

Join us for the 45th Annual Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute (CGTI) Leadership Conference!

The Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute (CGTI) offers you the opportunity to showcase your organization, products, services and programs to youth and adult mentors who are seeking opportunities to be catalysts for change in their school and community.

CGTI is a youth leadership conference that offers opportunities for teens around the state to learn about leadership, healthy choices, and working with others to create better communities. CGTI empowers youth with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to lead an alcohol, tobacco, and other drug-free life by strengthening leadership skills and educating them to advocate for positive change within their school, community, and local government.

We will be holding a College, Career, and Resource Fair as part of our exhibitor hall this year! This group of energetic young people is an ideal audience to draw young professionals into the behavioral health field and to connect with different schools, businesses, and organizations.

How can YOU get involved?

  • Exhibit at our College and Career Fair/Exhibit Hall from 2:00-4:00pm on Monday, July 22!
  • Pre-registration is required.
  • Registration form is attached or online at:
  • Advertise your organization, business, college/university, or product in our manual – see form.
  • Sponsor an event at this year’s Teen Institute – see form.

For more information, please visit or contact Ashley Webb, Director of Strategic Initiatives at or call 217.528.7335 ext. 12


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Call for Presenters

March 8, 2019

In July 2019, CGTI is conducting its 45th annual Teen Institute, a five-day leadership conference sponsored by IABH. It is an award-winning program that offers opportunities for youth around the state to learn about leadership, healthy choices, and working with others to create better communities.

This year the theme for CGTI 2019 will be HOPE (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention Education).

We are looking for dynamic presenters to empower our participants and communities, as they seek opportunities to be catalyst for change. We have several workshops available for middle school and high school participants, as well as workshops for adult mentors. We would love for you to present at CGTI this summer at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

Our budget for presenters is limited, but we will consider your request for an honorarium and/or reimbursement for travel and expenses. Presenting at CGTI is a great way to get your message (and your name) out to hundreds of youth and adults from across the state of Illinois.

Presentation topics should be related to:

  • Substance Use Prevention(ATOD opioid crisis, juuling/vaping, marijuana, & alcohol)
  • Leadership
  • Mental Health Awareness (self confidence, body image, positive self-talk, susicide prevention, stress management)
  • Communication (resume building, interviewing)
  • Bullying Prevention
  • Teambuilding and Facilitation skills

Teens Reaching and Achieving Excellence (TRAX) workshops will be held Monday, July 22 and Wednesday, July 24 for 60 minutes. Round Robins will be held Tuesday, July 23 for 60 minutes. General Sessions will be held Sunday through Wednesday for 45 minutes.

A firm deadline for submitting proposals is Friday, April 15, 2019 at 4:00PM. Should you have any questions regarding CGTI 2019, please contact Ashley Webb at

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That's a wrap!

August 9, 2017

Another year in the books for the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute and it was one of the best ones yet!

Last month, we held our 43rd annual conference at Eastern Illinois University, a campus that we have happily called home base for five years. This year our theme was "Color Y(our) Future," with each of our discussion groups being named after a color. We thought color was the perfect representation for our camp: a bunch of individuals coming together to make something beautiful and bright!

As with each year, before we could begin welcoming our participants, our staff arrived Friday afternoon for a weekend of training. Between presentations and planning, scavenger hunts and trivia, we we're able to spend a little time bonding and prepping for the week ahead.

The participants arrived to our chorus of honking cars and cheering staff on Sunday afternoon and after unpacking and doing energizers, attended our opening ceremony. We also welcomed alumni back this year for our second Alumni Luncheon event.

This year's opening ceremony was extra special. We were proud to announce that our volunteer staff led a fundraising campaign that raised $26,477! 100% (75) of our volunteer staff exceeded or met their $200 goal, and we could not be more grateful to them and the many wonderful donors that helped us get to this point! With this money, we'll get a 2:1 match from the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations! Our fundraising efforts will continue with our 2:1 match until December 15.

The week was definitely busy, but in the best way. We had four wonderful general session speakers to start off our mornings: De'Marco Fomby, who spoke about our ability to influence; Julie Kelly, who spoke about how situations do not need to define you; Fabian Ramirez, who touched on the effects of bullying; and Eddie Slowiskowski, who used the art of dance and music to discuss life and success. Their energy and enthusiasm helped us wake up and prepare for the day!

On Monday and Wednesday, we had our TRAX (Teens Reaching and Achieving Excellence) Workshops. Each day featured multiple workshops for our middle school and high school participants that ranged from starting an Operation Snowball Chapter (prevention group in your school) to depression and stress relief to fostering leadership skills to suicide and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention, and college and career readiness. Participants are able to select workshops they would like to attend based on what skills they'd like to expand on or areas they'd like to learn more about.

On Tuesday we had our Round Robin sessions. Kevin Wanzer spoke about finding the funny in life in one of our sessions and a trivia gameshow about our program as well as pop culture was led in the other. What a great energy boost!

Each day our participants were able to meet with their discussion groups and Community Action Teams (CAT). In discussion groups, they were able to process the day's events, work on team building activities and bond with others from outside of their communities. Our CATs met to identify and focus on local issues and create action plans for their own specific communities.

We also had some special events each day! On Monday night, our discussion groups participated in a scavenger hunt based on our color theme. They were asked to find locations, discuss fun questions with their groups and participate in team building activities. On Tuesday, we had our Tuesday Night Live talent show led by our Activity Coordinators. All of our participants did a wonderful job taking the stage and sharing their talents with us! On Wednesday, we had our celebration. DJ Ritchie C led a dance in the main ballroom with board games set up in the other. Participants were also able to play games, bowl and swim, visit the CGTI store and relax during free time hours each day.

Each year we're are so amazed by what our staff and participants are able to accomplish at camp both in their groups and out. The plans created, the lessons learned, the bonds made and the fun had inspire us to make sure that our Mid-Year and our next camp are even BETTER and to continue finding ways to positively affect the communities and people around us! We can't thank everyone who participated and led this year for what wonderful memories they've left us with, what opportunities they've created and what changes they have already begun to make!

We can't wait to see all the positive change our participants make in their school and/or community over the next school year. We had such a great 2017 and we're looking forward to seeing everyone at our Mid-Year event January 13-14 to hear what's been accomplished since then!

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