More than 60 young people organized the second annual “Straight Up: Rise Above the Influence” rally for all students at Anacapa Middle School recently. Attendees were able to play games, win prizes, and learn about the impact and consequences of alcohol, drug and tobacco use.
Alejandra Rios, Katie Doughtery, and Jaina Malach pose with a paper chain created at the event. Each link is a pledge by students to be marijuana- or tobacco-free.
Students enrolled in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program planned and staged the second annual awareness rally on October 4. During the lunch period, all Anacapa students were invited to attend, play games, win prizes and get more information about the importance of, as the students put it, being “poison-free.” The games were designed with education and prevention in mind; for example, the “Cigarette Strike” bowling game involved rolling a ball to knock down large cardboard tubes made to look like cigarette butts, and winners received an anti-tobacco bracelet. Other activities included positive message face painting, ball and bean bag toss games, and the creation of a paper chain made up of students’ pledges to be marijuana-, alcohol-, and tobacco-free. Students designed and put up posters throughout the campus, which displayed statistics and information about the dangers of substance abuse.
Ricardo Ruvalcaba, Josh Arredondo, Xavier Barrio, Jorge Jimenez, Joseph Martinez, Riley Garcia, and Manny Lopez pose with their “Cigarette Strike” bowling game which awarded tobacco prevention awareness wristbands to winners.
Anacapa AVID student Sarah Ruiz, 13, said that an event like this is an effective way to get the message out about making positive choices. Games, Sarah says, “are a way to connect – they’re fun and yet you’re learning something.” As to the importance about raising awareness among young people her age, Sarah states “I think kids could think (using dangerous substances) are cool and they can get peer pressured into it. So if they have someone with them saying it’s not okay, then they can learn from that.”
The idea for an annual rally was inspired after a visit to Laura Taylor’s AVID class last year by Straight Up Ventura County, a youth leadership program made possible through the Alcohol and Drug Services of the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department. During the interactive workshops, students strategized ways to raise awareness and engage young people around the issues of drug, alcohol and tobacco use.
“When someone from Straight Up came to our class and showed us examples of games and events, we thought we should put an event together ourselves,” says Sarah. That was a starting point; from there, the students organized and planned all aspects of the successful rally.
Gina Favazzo and Nathan Ortiz run the “Making Good Choices” game, in which students toss balls into canisters urging youth to stay drug, tobacco and alcohol free.
Staging “Rise Above the Influence” has had many levels of benefits, says Mrs. Taylor. “Every single one of my AVID students, all 67 of them, were involved. It’s a win-win situation – you’re promoting healthy living, you’re promoting staying away drugs, alcohol and tobacco, you’re promoting leadership in kids who don’t necessarily always get to have leadership, and it’s a really positive culture for your school.”
“Middle school is a pivotal age where lots of kids try things, and some kids continue and some kids don’t,” Mrs. Taylor adds. “We want to get through to them to try to help them make good decisions.”
This article was reprinted in part by the Ventura Breeze. See story here
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