By Maj Carlos CuebasFebruary 21, 2012
San Juan, PR- Approximately 50 teenagers, between the ages of 14-17 years old, from all around the island of Puerto Rico, participated in the first Youth, Leadership, Education and Development (YLEAD) summit for reservists' dependents, at the CONRAD hotel in San Juan, 26-29 Jan.
The conference is part of the comprehensive US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico effort to develop the readiness of military community in Puerto Rico.
"Here we have children of soldiers who are deployed right now, or who will be mobilizing in the near future. I know that family separation is very difficult for the sons and daughters of our troops. I want you to know that our command will not hesitate to help each one of you during the process of mobilization and to answer your questions," said Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernández, senior US Army Reserve Officer in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, while addressing the YLEAD participants.
"The Army Reserve values the family very much. When a soldier deploys, it is our responsibility to protect their loved ones," said Beverly Arah, Director of the Child and Youth Services Program for the Army Reserve in United States, Europe and the Pacific.
Arah expressed being very happy with the way the event was conducted for the first time in the Caribbean.
"This is the first event of this type that we conduct here in Puerto Rico. In no other place around the United States, Europe or the Pacific, I have had seen the community support like here in the island," said Arah.
The purpose of the YLEAD is to educate the teenager children of US Army Reserve troops, so they become leaders at their communities, develop healthy social skills and grow as responsible citizens, all while facing the separation from a parent due to a mobilization.
"Our purpose is to pull these young people together, who reside in different places around the island, but who share the fact of being dependents of a US Army Reserve soldier. In this way, we facilitate the process for these young people to develop a support system with other youngsters who are going through the same experiences," said Arah.
The teenagers received several educational workshops to include decision making, conflict management and family relations among others.
The youngsters also had the opportunity to visit the San Juan Wildlife Museum, where they were able to see different wild animals from around the world, displayed at their natural habitat.
They also had the chance to dance to the rhythm of "Bomba y Plena", a Puerto Rican native music, as a way to learn and celebrate their culture.
Events like the YLEAD help develop resilience and readiness in the thousands of US Army Reserve families in Puerto Rico, who have been supporting the Nation's needs for 90 years, since 1922.