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Teens are used to being told to make good choices by adults, but a group of Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) and Insight Academy of Arizona (ISAZ) students has taken the initiative to teach their peers about choices and consequences.

Last month, the Arizona Youth Partnership (AZYP) awarded the students at the Kingman Blended Learning Center (KBLC) $1,500 to form a leadership coalition to meet after school on a weekly basis to learn leadership skills, teamwork and substance abuse prevention strategies.

The prize money is designated to be used for the KBLC teen center, where the coalition can develop positive messaging that promotes healthy lifestyles.

“It is a great morale booster and helps both schools grow and bond together through the blended learning program,” said Kathy Roddy, a KBLC school administrator, who believes the KBLC students beat out other high schools in the Mohave County area because of their unique ideas and diverse backgrounds. “The Teen Center itself is a wonderful asset to Kingman, and the Leadership Coalition will help give students a safe environment.”

The teen center will be an outlet for AZVA and ISAZ students. It will also be a community center for Mohave County.

“The staff and students at the KBLC have created a loving, safe, and fun Teen Center,” Kathy said. “I am so proud of all of the teens that have participated in this program with Trish Ford, our community development coordinator, and the AZYP program. Trish has worked hard to bring the high school students together and be leaders in our school and our community.”

This opportunity is available through a grant from the Treatment Assessment Screening Center- Community Grant Initiative whose mission is to provide supportive services and substance abuse education for Arizona families.

“The goal of this project is to increase youth participation in prosocial activities, increase school and neighborhood attachments, and increase self-image and youth success,” Kathy said. “Increasing these opportunities in a youth’s life assists in decreasing risky behaviors, such as substance use, early sexual activity and bullying.”

The youth coalition participants will learn to assess their environment and isolate any specific issue they would like to address throughout the program.

The students will be encouraged to develop public service announcements, brochures, posters and other positive messaging promoting healthy lifestyles, as well as to act as positive role models to peers and younger students in the school.

The coalition follows a youth-adults partnership model, which creates an environment of teamwork between youth, staff, parents and community. It creates sustainability in youth leadership efforts which will live on after funding is no longer available.

The group has already begun to implement great projects for their coalition by creating a board game that will help players stay on the right path in life. They are also currently working on creating a “Substance Abuse Periodic Table of Elements” with the group leaders from AZYP.

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