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Program makes noise for Texas Military Forces teens

AUSTIN, Texas -- Sounds of laughter, cheering and clapping filled the air during the Texas Youth Symposium held at the Austin Convention Center March 29.

Held in conjunction with the annual conference of the National Guard Association of Texas, the symposium involved teenaged sons and daughters of Texas Military Forces members.

The teens had their hands high in the air and their faces wide with smiles as professional speaker and author Bill Cordes kept them on their feet and participating in activities such as "You Choose," "Expanding Your Ozone," "Great Efforts Yield Great Rewards" and "O 2 Be Responsible," to name just a few.

This symposium was one example of events sponsored by the Texas Youth Program, whose mission is to provide the children of Texas Military Forces members with social and emotional support for challenges associated with deployments, reunions and military family life in general. Organizers want to add to the program's membership so more Texas Military Forces children can benefit.

The 80 young people currently enrolled in the Texas Youth Program are "just the tip of the iceberg," given the thousands ages 6 through 18 from across Texas who are eligible, according to Nancy Herren, state coordinator for the program.

Anthony Rodriguez, 16, of Killeen, Texas, said the Texas Youth Program brought to light qualities in him he didn't know he had, such as leadership skills and a gregarious personality, and abilities to form lasting relationships and to act as a role model for younger children. Anthony is presently vice president of the Texas Youth Program.

Portia Grant, soon to be 18, of O'Donnell, Texas, has been in the program since she was 14. Currently one of the Texas Youth Program's junior advisers, she said the program helped her face her father's deployment by knowing she was not alone.

"The Texas Youth Program is here to let children of the Texas Military Forces know that they have friends; that they have family to turn to," said Portia.

For more information about the program, contact Ms. Herren at (512) 426-8744.