Forum puts kids in charge of programs to prevent drug, alcohol abuse, and violence
GRAND MOUND – Proving that you don’t have to give in to fit in, Washington teens wowed their peers and adult mentors with clever marketing campaigns, peer support programs and even hip-hop aimed at preventing youth drug and alcohol abuse, violence and other destructive behaviors.
Thirty-four teams competed for top honors during the Washington Prevention Youth Spring Forum, April 30, at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Wash. Participants were judged by their peers, who scored presentations based on five categories: innovation, sustainability, impact, presentation style/professionalism and collaboration/partnerships.
“Studies and common sense show that teens listen to other teens,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. “The youth engaged in these prevention programs harnessed the power of peer pressure to present the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, violence and teen suicide in a way that’s appealing to their friends. Their innovative programs, which use the latest technology, music and video, serve as models that can be replicated throughout the state.”
The Attorney General’s Office has dedicated more than $300,000 from consumer protection settlements with drug companies to help fund prevention programs, including the 2009 Youth Spring Forum. These funds enabled the Attorney General’s Office to provide roughly 300 scholarships for students and adults to attend this event.
The forum was planned in partnership with the Department of Social and Health Services Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse to follow-up with students who attended the 2008 Washington Prevention Summit in Yakima last fall. At the Fall Summit, students were challenged to develop prevention programs for their own communities. All who accepted the challenge were invited back to the Spring Forum to participate in a statewide competition designed to showcase their projects and give students the opportunity to learn new ideas from one another.
Their presentations ranged from a Stadium High School student’s one-man show about his mother’s struggle with prescription drug addiction, to a group of Nathan Hale High School students who developed a peer mentor program that matches at-risk younger students with juniors and seniors who participate with them in safe activities such as bowling, movies and outdoor fun.
At the end of the day, a talented and inspirational group of Thurston County teens known as the “Washington State Music Mentors” took the grand prize, a $4,000 scholarship to attend an upcoming Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America Leadership conference.
Teens Mafi Sua (South Sound High School), Dvante Jackson (South Sound High School), Karl Duncan (Olympia High School), Sergio Ramierez (Olympia High School) and Jose Lovano (River Ridge High School) are part of a touring group who use hip-hop and rap to share their inspirational prevention message.
They came together during a week-long music academy in December 2008 led by Gear Up with Music, an Olympia-based program to engage teens as music mentors. The students kept journals then wove those personal stories into song lyrics about violence, gambling and substance addiction.
Smokin’ on some crystal, couldn’t make the right decisions. So please listen to the message that I’m trying to give you. – How we survive, by the Washington Music Mentors
- Washington State Music Mentors - Thurston County
- Lewis County Youth Prevention Team: Giving to Get
- Midway Dragons Leadership for Life – Midway High School, Oak Harbor
- Othello Community Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking (RUaD)
- Peace Out Community Education Forums – Lincoln and Mt. Tahoma High Schools and Hunt Middle School, Tacoma
- Students Protesting Lies About Tobacco (SPLAT!) – Thurston County
- Innovation: Point Bank SADD Chapter – Orcas School/Orcas Island Prevention Project
- Sustainability: Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) – Stadium High School, Tacoma
- Impact: Making a Change: Prom Promise/Drug-Free Celebration - Orting
- Presentation Style/Professionalism: Teens at Chehalis Tribe Against Alcohol Drugs Tobacco: Choice and Consequences
- Collaboration/Partnerships: Wapato/TATU SADD – Wapato High School
For more information about the Forum, see http://atg.wa.gov/SpringForum.aspx.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For team photos, please contact Janelle Guthrie
Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725