Teens Educate Young Campers About Staying Substance-free

Area high school students Addyson Thomas, left, and Alaina Zende help educate young campers attending the Community Impact Coalition youth forum at Bridge Street Middle School about the dangers of substance abuse.

WHEELING — Area high school students working as summer interns for the Community Impact Coalition are educating young campers this week about the dangers of substance abuse.

The purpose of the two-day forum, which is being done in conjunction with the Chambers YMCA Summer Camp at Bridge Street Middle School in Elm Grove, is to educate children about the importance of staying drug- and alcohol-free through a variety of hands-on activities set up at several stations inside the school, according to Impact project coordinator Martha Polinsky.

The four interactive educational stations include information about: alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and positive self-image. Polinsky said each work station was designed by the summer interns with assistance from Impact volunteers to be age appropriate for the campers. She said this particular program is designed for the teens to work with younger students because the kids may be able relate to the teens better than adults. They worked with fifth- and sixth-graders on Tuesday and seventh- and eighth-graders Thursday at the school. Bridge Street School is located only a few blocks away from the YMCA.

Polinsky said Impact officials inquired about setting up an educational forum with the YMCA’s summer camp program because it seemed to be a great fit for their mission. Formed in 2007, Impact is a community substance abuse prevention coalition that has a vision for a safe and drug-free community in which to live, work and raise families. The mission statement for the coalition is to “use our community resources and proven prevention strategies to promote a drug-free lifestyle for youth and families in Ohio County.”

“We asked them, ‘Can we come and present this (program) to your students,’ … and they were really on board with it,” Polinsky explained about coordinating the event with the YMCA’s camp.

Area high school students, from left, Lucia Perri, Maddie Riedel and Mykenzie Buchanan participate in educating young campers attending the Community Impact Coalition youth forum at Bridge Street Middle School about the dangers of substance abuse.

Intern Addyson Thomas , who will be a senior at Wheeling Central Catholic High School this fall, said the kids seemed to be very interested in participating at the station she was assigned to in one corner of the school gymnasium.

“So we’re just covering the dangers of alcohol. … We are just trying to inform them of the problems that can occur in the future and how they can prevent it. … They are participating a lot and they’re actually taking something away from it,” Thomas said.

Intern Lucia Perri, who will be a sophomore at Wheeling Park high School this fall, was busy teaching a small group of kids in the school lunchroom about the importance of having positive self esteem.

“I’m really trying to teach them about having a positive self image and having good self esteem … because a lot of times that is the very first thing that can prevent further substance abuse,” Perri explained. “A lot of people turn to substances to make themselves feel better, and what I’m trying to teach them is that you don’t need anything but yourself to make yourself feel good,” she added.

Community Impact Coalition volunteer Vivienne Padilla assists with the youth forum at Bridge Street Middle School. Photos by Scott McCloskey

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