More than 350 Jewish teens gathered in December over winter break to experience exciting competitions, meaningful moments and endless fun at BBYO's most highly anticipated annual event, Regional Convention.
RC 2015, coordinated by Lexi Michaels, a West Bloomfield High School senior, and Zack Kirshner, a North Farmington High School senior, with the assistance of BBYO Michigan's Regional Director Katie Fried, introduced seven new competitions including an epic "Lip Sync Battle" and "AZA/BBG Quiz Bowl."
One of the most exciting additions was the presence of two step teams from Wayne State University, who opened this year's cheer competition.
"If you ask any parent, adviser or participant, they will say that this RC was special," Kirshner said.
During RC, Michigan Region's AZA (boys), BBG (girls) and BBYO (coed) chapters competed in more than 20 competitions, including Iron Chef, talent show, d'var Torah, basketball, whirlyball, handicraft and more.
The convention culminates with awards and closing ceremonies, where chapters eagerly await the announcement of which AZA and which BBG chapter will receive the top awards. This year, the General Maurice Rose AZA Most Distinguished Chapter Award went to Kishon AZA #63, and Ahavah BBG #293 was awarded the Hart Targan Family BBG Most Distinguished Chapter Award.
"Somehow, each year RC just gets better and better," said Josh Cooper, a West Bloomfield High School junior and president of Kishon AZA. "RC is bigger than BBYO; it is a chance for the whole community to unite."
Rachel Grey Ellis, senior regional director of BBYO Michigan Region, said, "We are so proud of the teens for all their hard work and dedication to their chapters, their sportsmanship throughout RC, and their respectfulness of the people and places they went throughout RC. These teens are exceptional, and our future is bright."
TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION
This year at RC, BBYO invited Rabbi Yarden Blumstein from the Daniel B. Sobel Friendship House in West Bloomfield and college student Lizzy Kirsch to come lead a presentation on the topic of teen suicide prevention. Along with BBYO members Brandon Rothenberg and Skylar Watnick, they spoke about some of the startling stats in regards to teen suicide in the U.S. Each day, there are more than 5,400 suicide attempts amongst teens in America and four out of every five of those teens gave clear warning signs before.
The teens learned about the power of supporting each other when they are in need and the importance of reaching out for help. The presentation ended with a stand-up to support and empower those who are suffering.
From the teens relaying the message to their friends who weren't present to some teens coming up, both then and later, with questions and looking for more info, the presentation was extremely successful in getting a relevant and pertinent message across to them.
"It was really cool to see the looks on the kids' faces when we were up there talking. I could tell that they were deeply involved in what we had to say," Rothenberg said. This was all part of a Umatter campaign launched by the Friendship House at the beginning of this past school year. Part of this program includes a two-day training in February that teens can attend to become empowered and train with real life tools related to suicide prevention.
Watnick participated in the last session of the two-day training and really appreciated it. She said she found the training to be very practical and useful.
"I appreciate BBYO being open and willing to take time out of its RC schedule to talk about such an important topic. It shows on the focus and values of the organization. It was a real pleasure to be able to partner with them on such an important and substantial matter," Blumstein said.
If you have questions regarding suicide prevention, reach out to the BBYO offices at (248) 432-5685 or the Daniel B. Sobel Friendship House at (248) 788-8888. If you have suicidal thoughts, call Common Ground at (800) 231-1127.