“Amazing!” “Really inspiring!” “I loved it!”
These are just some of the comments that sum up the reaction of the more than 150 teens and adults who attended TeenSpeak 2013 on February 2 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois—the largest crowd we’ve ever had at a TeenSpeak conference!
The day began with an engaging and enthusiastic presentation titled “Designed to Create,” by Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation. Drawing from his experience as an Emmy-Award winning creative professional, Ryan explained that in communicating the pro-life message through visual media, certain principles of design must be followed, or else the message will not reach its intended audience.
As examples, Ryan showed several engaging and impactful videos throughout his presentation, including “We’ve Been Guttmachered,” “Hell Breaks Loose,” “Meet Jonny Moses,” and, last but not least, “Unwanted,” which highlights Ryan’s personal story of having been conceived in rape and placed for adoption in a large, multi-racial family.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed Ryan’s presentation. High school student Therese Starasinich commented, “His talk got me more excited to take on action spreading the truth.” Patrick Lechner noted that Ryan’s talk “makes me want to use my job in the future for the pro-life movement.”
Up next was J.T. Eschbach, an associate of the Pro-Life Action League, who gave an abbreviated training seminar titled, “You Can Save Lives: Getting Started with Sidewalk Counseling.”
After J.T. shared his expertise as a veteran sidewalk counselor, three students from Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois — Julia K., Hannah M., and Megan S. — spoke about some of their own experiences sidewalk counseling, which each of them have been doing regularly for more than a year, both at the Family Planning Associates abortion clinic in downtown Chicago, and at Planned Parenthood in Aurora.
High school student Sara Groppe said that this session “gave a lot of useful pointers and helped me realize that sidewalk counseling isn’t so scary.” Monica Tragasz added, “As someone who has been shadowing a sidewalk counselor, I found this information very helpful.”
Cristina McCormack, a freshman at Naperville Central High School, commented, “I really liked listening to the teens from Christian Liberty Academy because they made me feel like [sidewalk counseling] was something I could do to be involved.” Other students also expressed a desire to try sidewalk counseling as well.
Following the session on sidewalk counseling, Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler spoke about one of the key elements to dialoguing with people who call themselves “pro-choice” — namely, listening.
Eric pointed out that we can’t hope to change someone’s mind about abortion if we don’t fully understand why the person supports abortion, and to do that, we need to actively listen to the other person. Eric noted that this and several pointers are explained in more detail in the League’s Sharing the Pro-Life Message handbook — which all attendees received — and he encouraged everyone to keep their copy with them at all times.
Following lunch, my co-worker Matt Yonke revisited the Design theme that Ryan Bomberger had discussed earlier in the day with a short PowerPoint tutorial on “how to design web graphics that persuade and delight.” Matt’s talk served as a great jumping-off point for TeenSpeak’s Pro-Life Graphic Design Workshop. We’ve conducted similar workshops at the last four TeenSpeak conferences, and they’ve received great feedback over the years. This year’s Graphic Design Workshop was no exception.
Attendees were divided into 20 groups, and each group was given two design templates, a pencil, a set of markers, and 40 minutes to create their own graphic. To ramp up the competition factor, the teams were told that the winning design would be made into an actual web graphic and shared to potentially tens of thousands of Facebook users.
Ryan Bomberger graciously agreed to judge the entries that the 20 groups produced, and two groups that came up with strikingly similar designs shared First Place honors. (Watch this space: they will be posted here soon.)
High school student Angela DeJesus summed up the reaction of many others when she said that TeenSpeak “made me think about choosing to be pro-life and that you have to do something, not just talk and listen about it.”
We were thrilled that so many teens have given us thoroughly positive feedback on the conference and have said they’re really looking forward to next year.
So am I!