Session leader Myra Key asked a group of upcoming Aiken County graduates if they knew where they would be 365 days from today. The importance of having a path, she stressed, will directly impact the rest of a young adult's life.

Key was one of several speakers who addressed parents and students at USC Aiken during the Are You Ready to be Grown Conference, an effort sponsored by Education Matters.

“Will you have just finished your first year of college, or will you be advancing in the military? Will you be finishing your first year in the workforce?” Key posed. “You have to start thinking about those things.”

The conference included seminars on making choices, money management, entering the workforce and all of the other factors that signal adulthood.

Founder Donna Moore Wesby said the thinking is to help kids understand that reaching adulthood is a growth process and cannot be attained as easily as some may think.

“This is for students who think they have grown up but really don't understand what it takes and also for parents to help their children become more independent,” she said. “It was divinely inspired based on seeing a need.”

Wesby said 65 parents joined their 82 middle school and 61 high school children on Saturday for a total of 208 participants.

One parent-student tandem, Zeliah and Zion Spruill, drove over from Hephzibah, Georgia to attend the sessions. Zion, who will be in the seventh grade next school year, said the seminars covered a variety of topics.

“We've learned about how to spend your money and how important education is,” he said.

Zeliah added that the parents received information on parenting styles and how to be engaged but firm with their children.

“It's helping us reassess our styles and understand how we can go home and better parent our children,” Zeliah said.

Other seminar leaders included Aiken High teacher Sally Larson and Wesby's son, Michael Wesby, who is currently attending Anderson University.

While Larson addressed positive parenting styles with parents, Michael explained to a group of middle school kids that negative influences have to be avoided in order to be successful.

“There's somebody waiting on who you're going to be, so you can't make time for destructive friends,” Michael said. “You've got to study hard and apply yourself and I promise it will pay off.”

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June.