Red Ribbon Week is a nation-wide drug prevention awareness week that runs from October 23-31st each year. Sponsored by the National Family Partnership, the mission of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to be a very visible, unified push toward creating safe, healthy, and drug-free communities throughout the United States. Aimed at school-age audiences, this year’s Red Ribbon Week is Respect Yourself: Be Drug Free. “We know that just telling youth that drugs are bad and not to use them doesn’t work. Instead, we are working to educate around how drugs negatively affect the adolescent brain and to focus on positive alternatives to drug use in that population,” said Alyssa Grams, AmeriCorps member with the Teen Advocacy Coalition (TAC), “I think this goes hand in hand with the theme of self-respect.”
During Red Ribbon Week in North Pacific County, TAC will be holding awareness days at Raymond, South Bend, and Willapa Valley high schools. According to Grams, “One of the things you hear a lot from youth, especially in rural areas, is that there’s nothing better to do here than get drunk or high. That’s a very common excuse for adolescent drug and alcohol use and, I think, one that’s important to address.” That’s exactly what TAC is hoping to do during Red Ribbon Week. At lunch time, students at all three high schools will have the opportunity to contribute to a collage of sorts by writing one of their favorite activities or, rather, one thing they’d “rather be doing than drugs”. These collages will then be displayed at each school.
TAC is partnering with school counselors and True North to provide accurate drug and alcohol information to students. “One of the most important aspects of TAC is to raise teen awareness regarding substance abuse,” Gracie Manlow, TAC Project Coordinator said. “By partnering with other organizations, students are receiving the most up to date data.”
While TAC is focusing on talking directly with teens for Red Ribbon Week, help and support from parents and community members is critical in working toward safe and drug-free communities for Pacific County youth.
If you would like more information about drugs and the adolescent brain or what you can do to help, or if you’d like red ribbons to display at your organization or place of business in support of Red Ribbon Week, please contact TAC at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 214-1307.
Friday, October 9th marked the first event of the Raymond High School Equality Club: a celebration of National Coming Out Day. Students hosted an information table at lunch to educate and answer the questions of their peers around the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community including the history of the Pride movement, LGBTQ rights, and how to be an ally. For Equality Club president, Maija Nordin, “it’s just all about awareness. We just want to make sure everyone knows it’s okay to be gay.”
Equality Club members created a Pride Poster displaying images of famous LGBTQ individuals and Allies such as Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Michael Sam, the first openly gay man to be drafted into the NFL, LaVerne Cox, the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy, and many others. “In a small town, it can be hard for gay people. I think they can feel like they are the only ones. This is why we are here today.” said Megan Moilanen, Equality Club Vice-President. The students’ effort was mirrored in select classrooms, where a Human Rights Campaign video celebrating actors, athletes, musicians, and reporters from the LGBTQ community was shown throughout the day.
“I think this is definitely a topic that folks can be unsure about at first, so it was awesome to see such positive responses from students, teachers, and staff- from students running around with pride wristbands and Equality Club buttons to staff asking questions about the LGBTQIAAP acronym, I think the Equality Club students have done great work in opening the conversation around a charged topic in a really positive way” says Alyssa Grams, AmeriCorps member with the Teen Advocacy Coalition and volunteer with Equality Club.
Equality Club is a completely student-driven non-curricular organization that was created in March when a group of students approached Raymond School District School Counselor, Lyndsey Owen, about creating a social justice club to promote equality. Says Owen, “I had seen other clubs and gay straight alliances work at other schools and thought it would be a great way to promote a welcoming school environment here at RHS. The response from the students has been overwhelming. The Equality Club has over 25 student members and is still growing.”
But Equality Club isn’t just for the LGBTQ community, “it’s also for stuff like race, religion, and beliefs” says Moilanen. Student members drafted a mission for Equality Club that includes promoting social equality and a safe school environment free from fear of prejudice, harassment, or violence based on age, development, disabilities, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientations, indigenous heritage, national origin, and gender or non-gender status. Owen is excited about what the Equality Club is working toward, stating that it “promotes mental health, social justice, and a welcoming student environment.”
With a successful first event under their belts, Equality Club members are looking to generate even more involvement and buy-in both in the Raymond School District and in all of Pacific County. Says Moilanen, “We really want to encourage other schools to do something like this”.
Alyssa, TAC’s new AmeriCorps member here. Each month, I’ll be reporting about what’s going on with what was formerly known as TAC’s “Youth Arm” but will now be referred to as Peer Helpers; I’ll be sharing what the South Bend, Raymond, and Willapa Valley teens are planning, what they are working on, and what they accomplish. I’ll also be writing about my AmeriCorps team, the Pacific County Resiliency Corps and about some of the work we are doing in both North and South Pacific County.
I was raised in a tiny town in rural Wisconsin called Necedah and I graduated with a B.S. in Health Promotion/Wellness and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point in 2014. I moved here from Northern California where I served with AmeriCorps at the Laytonville Healthy Start Family Resource Center for about a year. I am passionate about holistic health and wellness and particularly interested in mental health, but during my time in Laytonville, I worked primarily with K-12 students and fell in love with working with teens in peer mentoring, teen leadership, and extracurricular programs. When I read about the work TAC is doing, I knew I wanted to get involved; that’s how I ended up here in gorgeous Pacific County! I also love hiking, writing and performing poetry, swimming, canoeing, hanging out with animals, running, camping, making jewelry, and reading. I’m so excited to see what I can contribute to this program and community!
About Peer Helpers:
Peer Helpers are high school students who are voted by their peers to participate in the Peer Helper retreat based on who would be most likely to be helpful, supportive, and knowledgeable when faced with a difficult situation. All peer helpers are passionate about helping and caring for others. They are trained in when to seek additional resources in order to help their peers.
Check out our blog post about the 2015 Peer Helper retreat September 12th-14th:
About Pacific County Resiliency Corps:
Pacific County Resiliency Corps is a group of 12 AmeriCorps Members who serve a 10.5 month term in various youth-serving organizations in Pacific County in order to help reduce adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and increase resiliency of our community’s youth. Our members perform a variety of services throughout the county including providing healthy activities, educational opportunities, strong interventions, parenting education, financial literacy, family engagement, youth mentoring, tutoring, career exploration, and more.
We started our service on September 1st and attended a 3-day training retreat at Ocean Park Retreat Center to get oriented to Pacific County as well as receive training on topics like effective communication, leadership, mandatory reporting, diversity, team development, ACEs, and stress.
On September 11th, the team got together for a Day of Service in South County. We did yard work and clean-up for folks in need at Golden Sands Assisted Living as well as five private residences. Our next Day of Service is Saturday, October 24th, and we are currently inquiring about needs in North County and looking for a project. If you have ideas or want to collaborate, please contact me at email@example.com!
Want more information about the Pacific County AmeriCorps team? Check out our page on the Pacific County Youth Alliance’s website: http://www.pacificcountyyouth.org/team-americorps.html