Students were selected to attend the retreat by their peers. Each high school was surveyed at the beginning of September. In the survey, students were asked to identify their top issues in their schools. Then, students select up to four peers they would feel comfortable confiding in if they had a problem that arose. Each of the local high schools, South Bend, Raymond, Willapa Valley, Naselle and Ilwaco could bring around 10 students.
“This is the largest event TAC hosts,” Gracie Manlow, TAC/DFC Project Coordinator, said. “The students do some pretty heavy reflecting about the issues within their schools and how they can change things for the better.”
Various trainings were offered throughout the weekend. This allowed students to gain skills and knowledge in the issues their peers identified as major problems in their schools. This year, the sessions included, “Healthy Relationships”, “Substance Abuse: Prevention” and “Know Your Rights” which featured information regarding the legal aspects of bullying.
“Students are trained on ‘how to’ assist a friend or classmate,” Manlow said. “The main focus of TAC’s mission statement is to promote pro-social activities that will strengthen mental health and reduce substance abuse.”
The Peer Helper Retreat added a new element into the weekend: a mini grant project. Each school was asked to build a campaign focused on a major issue in their school. Students completed applications, which asked for a dollar amount of funding, and presented their projects in front of a panel of judges. Each of the projects had a similar overlying theme of “Drug Prevention”, and the grant judges were able to award funding to each school. The teams will receive their money in early 2015.
TAC would like to thank its many volunteers, chaperones and presenters for making the 2014 Peer Helper Retreat a success. TAC also extends thanks to the Ocean Park Retreat staff and the local high schools for their continued participation and support.
“We are here for the teens,” Manlow said. “We wouldn’t exist as a coalition if it weren’t for teen involvement.”