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Dozens of middle and high school students from throughout the Lompoc Valley spent their day off from school Monday at an event aimed at empowering them and broadening their horizons.

The fifth annual Teaching Our Teens As Leaders, or TOTAL, Conference was held Monday at the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center. The event, which is hosted each year by the Lompoc Youth Commission, featured two keynote speakers and nine breakout sessions that focused on school and career success, healthy relationships, social media safety and remaining true to oneself.

The theme for the event was "Shoot for the Stars."

"The Youth Commission wants returning or first-time attendees to leave with tools to be a better leader in their lives and in our community," Cabrillo High School junior and Youth Commission Chair Jessica Streett wrote in a letter welcoming attendees. "Today is a day to remember the leadership potential in everyone and a reminder no matter what choices you've made in life, it's not too late to shoot for the stars."

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The featured speakers were EJ Carrion and Jessie Funk.

Carrion is an author and the co-founder of Student Success Agency, an academic training organization that pairs teens with near-peer advisers to help improve their high school to college transitions. Funk is an author and professional singer who is also a certified life coach.

Lompoc Unified School District schools were closed Monday in observance of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday. 

This report was prepared by Willis Jacobson. He can be reached at wjacobson@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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