Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover was still a Pittsburg councilman in 1997 when he dreamed up a special event for teens in his city.
"It was called a youth conference then," he said, "and it was centered around education. We wanted to engage youths and find out what their interests were."
Fewer than 300 attended, as he recalls, and the scope of activities was minimal. But that effort laid the foundation for what would become an annual event -- Federal Glover's Youth Summit -- featuring speakers, performers, educational workshops and growing numbers of participants for a daylong program.
More than 800 youths from 26 schools attended Saturday's 14th edition at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, where motivational speaker Shaun Derik kicked off the day with a rhythmic, hand-clapping presentation that packed a lot of messages into 45 minutes.
He told his audience that he was criticized and lacking self-esteem as a youth before a music instructor complimented his piano playing one day. ("The first compliment I ever received," he said.) The lesson was not lost: Words can be powerful -- for good or bad -- and people need to be careful how they use them.
He also learned that being good at something required practice. Being better required more. If he wanted to be a great musician, he had to practice until he was.
"Success doesn't happen by accident," he said. "It happens on purpose."
During a high-energy performance that featured comedy, dance and song, Derik shared messages that resonated with the crowd: 1) Surround yourself with friends you admire; 2) Decide who you are, or others will decide for you; and 3) Always look forward, not backward.
"Do you know why windshields are bigger than rearview mirrors?" he asked. "It's because what's in front of you is so much more important than what's behind you."
Glover said each year's goal is to find a speaker who can "inspire our young people to talk about the issues that are going on in their lives -- someone who's motivational with a clear message."
Saturday's event invited youngsters to attend any of 18 workshops in morning and afternoon sessions, with topics ranging from employment tips and financial literacy to cyber-bullying and dating violence. Experts in CPR were on hand to demonstrate the basics for any youngsters thinking about signing up for a full-day course.
Glover said bells and whistles have been added as the Youth Summit has evolved. Saturday's lunchtime break was a virtual three-ring circus. A helicopter from the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office and a fire engine from the Contra Costa Fire District were available for inspection. The Pittsburg police K-9 division went through exercises. The Antioch Martial Arts Academy offered a karate demonstration. Food was prepared by New Mecca restaurant.
Funding came from several sources, including the Keller Canyon Community Grant Fund, Calpine Energy, NGR, Shell and Phillips 66. Other participants included nonprofits such as the Youth Service Bureau and Contra Costa Crisis Center, with representatives on hand to explain their services.
Before youngsters left, they received bus pass vouchers and advice on how to navigate the transit system safely. It was a lot packed into one day.
Glover's brainstorm, hatched 17 years ago, has come a long way.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.