LHS students learn to party without substance abuse
Bobbie Pangallo, the Friday Night Live coordinator for Lassen County, told the board the program operated by the county alcohol and drug department, trains high school students to mentor junior high students and offers drug-and-alcohol-free activities.
The four students, who spoke to the board at its Tuesday, March 18 meeting, just got back from Reach camp in Chico.
Vial, a mentor, said he learned a lot.
“Personally, I came back with a new respect for everyone,” he said. “You find out that everyone’s going through everything that you are going through.”
Camp participants learned about a dance students in San Diego promoted by putting up so many flyers teachers had to rip them down to reach their classrooms. The entire school showed up for the dance party.
“It just showed people that you can have fun without having to be drunk,” Vial said. “I think that we can bring that here and it would be an effective chance for our people here.”
“You don’t tell the kids they’re not going to be drinking and doing drugs there,” Pangallo said. “You just tell them there’s a party.”
In San Diego, 75 percent of the kids at the first dance party were intoxicated, but Pangallo said even though there were no drugs or alcohol at the party, they still danced and had fun. The next weekend, only 50 percent were intoxicated. The third weekend, she said the same kids showed up, all clean and sober.
“If you use teenagers that are in prominent roles as far popularity to start programs like these, kids will follow,” Pangallo said.
Sophomore Shannon Hoelzle said one of her favorite parts of the camp was an activity called crossing the line. The facilitator would say something and each student would cross the line if the statement applied to him or her.
“We got to find out about all the ways we’re like each other,” Hoelzle said.
She also said Friday Night Live should implement the program in Susanville.
Sophomore Danielle Hatfield said on the first day of the camp, all the participants were divided into cliques.
“When we went to breakfast, we were all at two different tables and we were completely divided even though we were mentors,” Hatfield said.
By dinner the last day of the camp, she said the students sat together as one big group.
“We had personally got to know each other and learned that each and every one of us is going through the same struggles in our daily lives,” Hatfield said.
With half-a-dozen new friends to say hi to at school every day, she said, “I know if anything was wrong in my day, I could go to them and I could talk to them.”
Hatfield said participants in the Friday Night Live mentoring program want to get funding to have a similar camp in Susanville in the summer.
On the way to the camp, the students were “absolutely divided,” Pangallo said.
“We could not get them to sit,” she said. “They were trading tickets because they had the wrong color ticket to ride with their friends.”
Mentor Chris Walker, a junior, said the Reach camp really impacted his life and he looks at people in a different way. He said the camp taught him people are not different just because they dress differently or have different social lives. Walker said he also would like to bring the camp to Susanville.
“I remember when I was in seventh and eighth grade, I wasn’t going down a very straight path,” Walker said. “It was not good and I really wish that I could have had (the Reach for the Future camp).”
Pangallo said she will be taking junior high students to the Reach camp this week. She said the camp is a challenge physically, mentally and emotionally.
Butte County organized Reach for the Future, a three-day youth camp designed for young people to address abuse of alcohol and drugs and other issues, and to receive high-level leadership training. Butte County adopted the Friday Night Live program in 2004, according to the Web site csac.counties.org
The camp included general sessions and workshops, a talent show, dance and ropes course. A modest fee was charged for the camp, which also was funded by local grants and fees. Results were encouraging: 88 percent of junior high school students said they learned a new skill, and fully nine in 10 high school students noted they had become more accepting of diverse groups of people.
Pangallo said the first day of the camp, called challenge day, breaks everyone down in a emotionally safe way.
“They spend the next two days building them back up,” she said.
On the last day, students do a basic training course. It includes an activity called the flying squirrel, like a zip line, where participants are hooked into a harness and dragged down a line strung above the trees.
Pangallo said a student asked her to do the flying squirrel exercise, which she did to keep up her image as the adult, despite her fear of heights.
The last exercise builds trust as students have to figure out how to get each other over a 20-foot wall without any pegs or ropes.
“I think that’s the reason why at dinner the kids were completely united instead of divided,” Pangallo said.
Butte County received three 2005 and one 2006 California State Association of Counties Challenge Award Honorable Mentions for its FNL programs.
Saying he was impressed with the LHS students’ presentation, District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman donated $500 from his discretionary fund.
District 4 Supervisor Brian Dahle and Board Chairman and District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson matched Chapman’s donation, and County Poet Laureate Violet Stout donated $20 in memory of her son.
District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle said he would make a donation when the new fiscal year starts in July and board members get $5,000 each.
Pangallo said she works with 48 students on a weekly basis and would like to take them all to camp. However, just to bring the challenge day of the camp to Lassen County would cost $3,200, she said, and her budget is only $3,300.
“And today isn’t about fundraising,” Pangallo told the board. “It’s about making the community and yourselves aware of what we’re doing because the more support we have in the community, I think that the program has more success.”
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