Juan Diego Hosts Students for “Communities Talk”
Navigating the teen years has never been easy. Bad influences, long sprung from the confines of locker rooms and late-night parties loom large and accessible on the ubiquitous mobile device found in every teen’s hand. Bullying, substance abuse, depression and school apathy are far more prescient today thanks to cyber peer pressure.
So how do we mitigate teen problems when the scope is so vast? Modern times surely necessitate a contemporary approach. Such was the thinking of the Draper Communities that Care Coalition (CTC), whose mission is to protect Draper youth from high-risk behaviors through prevention. Coalition leaders opted to put ownership of teen awareness of tough issues back in the hands of teens themselves. Perhaps the course to inspiration is best set by those who must navigate it. Thus the “Communities Talk” forum took shape.
Hosted in January at Juan Diego Catholic High School, the creative forum brought seven Draper schools together to share information. The student led and produced event premiered in true “Late Night TV” fashion, with a teen host, a desk and a couch. Music greeted the nearly 800 parents and students who filled the auditorium. They sat in school groups: American Preparatory Academy, Channing Hall, Corner Canyon High School, Draper Park Middle School, Juan Diego Catholic High School, Saint John the Baptist Catholic Middle School and Summit Academy, each with an advisor on hand and a topic to present. Juan
Diego Catholic High School Student Body President, Katie Whittington, offered the opening prayer, then the program unfolded with teen emcee (and Draper CTC Youth Chairperson,) KatilynmWampler at the helm. Draper City Mayor Troy Walker addressed the audience, as did Police Chief Bryan Roberts, but it was the students who drove the messaging.
Draper Park Middle School tackled the depressive symptoms of suicide. PTA President Bryn Johnson noted that several DPMS students produced their video about the warning signs of suicide, while others were on hand to present it. DPMS Student Representative, Emma Johnson offered thoughts on the experience. “I think students do a better job presenting because sometimes adults are too serious and kids are more likely to listen to someone their own age.” American Preparatory Academy performed a musical plea to stay committed to school. Students danced through the aisles to the strains of “Y.M.C.A.” The lyrics, altered to “Why stay in school,” were peppered with the reasons teens should stay engaged in education. Summit Academy Junior High addressed prescription drug abuse. Juan Diego Catholic High School focused on underage drinking. Channing Hall spoke to the ills of marijuana use, and Saint John the Baptist Catholic Middle School presented a power point on E-cigarettes and vaping. SJBMS student presenter, Keegan Gilbert offered the audience this jarring statistic. “Maybe you have noticed, but maybe you have not, but us kids tend to be the target for Cigarettes, not adults. The use of E-cigarettes by Utah youth grades eight through 12 doubled between 2013 and 2015. 22,000 Utah students in grades eight through 12 are regular users of Cigarettes.” Corner Canyon High School presented “Peer Refusal Skills,” key tactics teens can employ to combat negative influences.
As the presentations unfolded, Wampler injected questions, interacting with presenters seated on the couch. She sought to uncover what participants had learned. Juan Diego’s Abby Whittington noted creativity as a source of inspiration. “Students got to use a lot of creativity in a positive environment to promote the end to issues like teen drinking or the use of drugs. I think the schools put a lot of work and energy into fun, interesting performances. I learned that when the community comes together it can form an allegiance against negative actions.”
Wampler concluded by thanking participants and yielding the floor to Draper CTC Chair, Marion Norton, who underscored the benefits of working together to support our youth. Inspired by participation levels, former CTC director Gaile Dupree said “My hope is that this event is the beginning of something great. I would like to see these collaborative prevention efforts strengthen and build the youth component of the Draper CTC.“ The CTC has already booked next year’s event.