Seashore Leadership Academy students were recently invited to participate in a teen summit at Atlantic City High School to discuss important issues, including violence in the local community.
Atlantic City, N.J., Mayor Marty Small organized the panel discussion, which also included Seashore Leadership’s own School Director Ray Strickland and popular author, speaker, and social media influencer Wallace Peeples, better known as Wallo267.
The event was the first of what the school district officials and Mayor Small hope will become a series where students can express their opinions and share their personal experiences to help benefit those around them.
“I feel like it was a lot of young kids who needed to hear from someone more developed in their mind,” said Yamaad Gilliam-Bey, 17, a Seashore student who attended the panel. “Mayor Small being there helped. He is working to get more programs in the city and doing stuff to keep more kids out of trouble and give them more positive things to do.”
Another Seashore Leadership Academy student Issan Allen, 15, spoke up about his own mistakes and how he hopes he can help keep others from going down the wrong path.
“I need to be heard,” he said. “People don’t need to make the same mistakes. The mistake I made was thinking I was someone I wasn’t and wasn’t on the right path. But now I made the right turn and have a different life.”
Strickland said it was important for his students to participate in the panel discussion for many reasons, including to highlight how violence in the area affects them.
“This event provided an opportunity for our students to address problems that are real,” said Strickland. “If you don’t address issues, you can’t grow.”
He also said that Wallo267’s story resonated with the students. “He comes from the same place we do, accepts his accountability and does not let 20 years of prison time define him. The kids see how he went from being incarcerated to becoming a speaker and millionaire and believe they can do it too,” said Strickland.
Wallo267 hosted the discussion and shared his story about going to federal prison at the age of 17 and being released at 37. His story of resilience helped highlight for students the ability to overcome a negative past.
“I’m glad students had the time for our voices to be heard,” said Uroyalhighness Cannon, 17. “It was good. The students expressed themselves. It showed people that someone definitely has gone through something similar and that it can be good to talk to people outside of your family sometimes.”
Seashore Leadership Academy is an engaging and rigorous program serving middle school and high school students in Atlantic City and surrounding Atlantic County who need a structured and focused school environment to help improve their behavioral, social, and academic aptitude.
The program excels at engaging students in their education by helping them overcome the often-significant trauma in their lives that result in behavioral, social, emotional, and academic challenges.