Last Thursday, area teens gathered at a youth summit at the First Niagara Center. The summit, presented by BlueCross BlueShield and Leadership Buffalo, focused on many key components of an average teen's life.

After being greeted with an obstacle course and breakfast, more than 300 students from about a dozen schools throughout Western New York were split into groups. These groups then took turns at four different sessions, each with a different focus.

One session focused on future decisions. Students were asked questions to determine their behavioral strengths. Students learned ways to take advantage of their behavioral strengths and career paths that may be a good fit based on these traits. Many enjoyed seeing how the descriptions matched up to their personalities.

Leadership and overcoming barriers was the focus of another group. Students watched a video and heard recounts of individuals "spreading their wings, learning to fly," and prevailing over fears and limitations. Each student then wrote down their own barriers and fears, and shredded them in a paper shredder. The speaker and the symbolic shredding at this station were highlights for many of the students in attendance.

Another session centered on the issue of bullying. Each student was given a sticker and the task of creating groups based on this sticker. Students saw firsthand how easy it is for "different" people to be singled out.

Many students were surprised to learn that bullying does not only apply to those who initiate bullying, but also those who do nothing to stop it. This session focused on making the right choices when it comes to bullying, nutrition and exercise.

The last session focused on helping others in need. At this station, students talked about community service projects.

The summit closed with a nutritionally balanced lunch and some words of advice from Warde Manuel, director of athletics at the University at Buffalo.

"Today is about you learning to be a leader and taking it and showing it to others," Manuel said.

Catherine Kelkenberg is a junior at Akron High School.