NEWARK, NJ –- Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II, welcomed nearly 600 students to Caldwell University for the annual What’s It All About Youth Conference.

“This is an opportunity for representatives of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office to talk with young people about the dangers of gangs, cyberbullying, dating violence and other issues confronting youth today. We hope they will come away from this event understanding the importance of steering away from people, places and things that can forever alter their lives,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Stephens. 

“Our hope is that some will consider careers in law enforcement but even if they don’t, we hope to impart important information and life skills that will help them navigate the teen years,’’ Prosecutor Stephens added.

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The conference is for students in grades 7 through 9. Participants came from Belleville, Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington and Newark. The goal of the one-day summit is to encourage youth to make positive choices to prevent violence.  Students were also introduced to educational and recreational resources in their communities.  

The youth conference was held at the Student Center at Caldwell University, located at 120 Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

Motivational speaker and former Star-Ledger News reporter, Caryl Lucas, addressed the group and encouraged students to respect themselves and others, to overcome challenges, and reach their goals. Over thirty representatives in the fields of higher education, law enforcement, medicine, social services and recreation had information tables at the event.  

Interactive workshops on Cyberbullying, Teen Dating Violence, Gang Awareness, Making Positive Choices, The Effects of Violence, Higher Education, Nutrition and Substance Abuse Prevention were held. 

“It is our vision that students will be inspired to become positive role models and peer leaders in their schools and communities,” said Executive Assistant Prosecutor Gwendolyn Williams, who oversees the Community Justice Unit which puts together this event every year.