• 70°

CHHS TA retreat

for a reason

By JAINE TREADWELL

Features Editor

Published Sept. 7, 1999

Anytime 42 high school students give up an entire Saturday for a cause, it has to be worthwhile.

Terry Watkins was greatly pleased, and perhaps a little surprised, at the turnout for the Teen Advisors Retreat held recently at First Baptist Church of Troy.

Watkins, the community education outreach coordinator for Edge Regional Medical Center, said the large number of Charles Henderson High School students who attended shows that they are taking their roles as Teen Advisors seriously.

The mission of Teen Advisors is twofold. The number one purpose is to extend positive peer support and acceptance to those who desire a purposeful and drug-free high school experience. Secondly, TA provides these students with opportunities to reach out to others and teenagers in need of their example.

"The young people who attended the retreat have pledged to be drug free, tobacco free, alcohol free and abstinent from sex," Watkins said. "By making this commitment, they are sending the message to other teens that it is all right not to do things that could hurt or destroy a student’s life."

Watkins said about 60 CHHS students were recommended by the school staff for Teen Advisors.

"This is by no means all of the students at CHHS who have already chosen this lifestyle," Watkins said. "But what we needed in the organizational year was a small workable group as we get the program underway."

Chandler Mathews, TA director, brought the teens together in an off-campus setting to help them understand their roles as Teen Advisors and to learn methods to help reach other teens.

"Chandler is a dynamic leader and he really got the students fired up at the retreat about being Teen Advisors," Watkins said. "In this first training session, he laid down the ground rules for them to follow. All teens share similarities in the struggles they face in a world that promotes behaviors that put them at risk."

Watkins said the numbers on teenagers destructive behaviors are staggering.

Each day:

15 teens commit suicide

600 contract a STD

1,100 have abortions

1,600 are jailed

1,800 become sexually active

2,800 become pregnant

2,700 do drugs for the first time

3,200 run away

4,400 begin drinking

"The numbers alone tell us that positive peer influence is needed," Watkins said. "That’s what Teen Advisors is all about. They learned how to use music, games, skits, role-playing and even personal testimonies to get the message across to other teens. Learning conflict resolution and stress management techniques gives these students more confidence in their own ability to handle situations that might arise."

Watkins said this is an upside down world and all teens need those they can turn to and trust.

"By being peer role models, TAs fill this need," she said. ""The students are enthusiastic about their role and highly motivated. We are looking forward to a good first year and many more to come as we grow in number and in influence."