CLEMSON — Education, government and nonprofit officials from across South Carolina will gather at Clemson University Monday and Tuesday to address this critical question: How can we help the state’s youth succeed?

The inaugural Summit for Youth Success: Building Youth-Friendly Communities in South Carolina will be held at the Madren Center on the Clemson campus. Sponsored by Clemson’s College of Health, Education and Human Development, the event will convene a group of stakeholders to establish priorities and cutting-edge strategies related to youth success, said Dean Lawrence R. Allen.

“We intend to create an agenda for youth success in the state and also carry that agenda forward in local communities, regional organizations and, ultimately, the statewide system,” he added.

South Carolina ranks 43rd in well-being of young people and 46th in overall health, according to Kellye Rembert, summit organizer and special projects coordinator for the college. Only 70 percent of students on average graduate from high school in most of the state’s school districts, one in 33 children are subjects in at least one substantiated or indicated maltreatment report, almost one in three high school students is overweight or obese and 15 girls ages 15-17 give birth every day.

The summit will feature addresses by:

  • Daniel Cardinali, president of Communities in Schools, a nationwide dropout-prevention organization that mobilizes existing community resources to address academic and non-academic barriers to student achievement. Under Cardinali’s direction, the organization has a presence in more than 2,400 schools and community-based sites in 27 states, including South Carolina, working through a site coordinator who connects students and their families with critical resources. Cardinali will address the summit at 10 a.m. Monday.
  • Allen, who has been an advocate of positive youth development during his tenure as dean, creating a Masters in Youth Development Leadership program and other initiatives that have established the college’s national and international reach in the field. Along with colleagues at Clemson, he has authored several articles about the development of an outcome-based model of youth program delivery. Allen will address the gathering at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
  • Hayward Jean, principal of Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Under Jean’s leadership, Mellichamp has progressed from an “F” to an “A” academic rating in just one year based on state standardized test results. Jean is a member of the inaugural class of Clemson’s acclaimed Call Me MISTER program, which seeks to increase the pool of teachers from diverse backgrounds, particularly among South Carolina’s lowest-performing elementary schools. Jean will speak at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Summit attendees will organize into focus groups in five areas: health, parenting, early childhood development, out-of-school opportunities and education/school environment. The suggestions from these groups will be used to develop an overall agenda for youth success that will emerge from the meeting in a presentation at noon Tuesday.

The agenda will be used as the major platform for building youth coalitions across the state, beginning with an initial pilot site that will be announced following the summit, Rembert said. There also will be opportunities for additional sites to apply at a later date.