We don’t know about you, but we are still super energized from Georgia Teen Institute 2014! The summer program may be over, yet it’s still all many of us can think about. In a recent blog post, we shared with you some highlights of the week from our large group sessions. Believe it or not, we still have so much more to tell. Read below for some insight into two major components of GTI: Team Meetings and Family Groups.
The reason Youth Action Teams have attended Georgia Teen Institute for the past 26 years is because they want to make a difference in their communities. Each team met daily during the program to participate in team building, assessing community needs and strengths and developing an Action Plan for the upcoming year. The Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) was utilized for each team to plan at least one project from start to finish that they will implement when they return to their communities. In addition, they reviewed data from the Georgia Department of Education’s Georgia Student Health Survey II and the Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS Count Data to get to know the issues that prevail in their communities. Working with their Adult Advisors and GTI Youth or College Age Staff, all 43 teams successfully completed a plan of action in response to a local issue the group decided should be addressed. Thirty teams who are funded by DBHDD addressed underage drinking as their problem and planned prevention projects related to the issue. Because GTI is a youth leadership program centered on prevention, several other teams identified underage drinking as the issue they wanted to address with their project, as well.
In addition to all the hard work they put into their team Action Plans, they participated in team building activities to help the team learn more about their strengths, areas for improvement and how they can successfully work together at GTI and when they return home. This year, teams completed several beach-themed activities, such as creating their own Beach House and Blimp to advertise their project. Teams also designed a treasure map, played Beach Towel Flip and went on a beach trip with the Wright family.
Each team who attended GTI successfully submitted an Action Plan. If you’re wondering what an Action Plan would include and what communities across the state of Georgia will see in the coming year, here are a few highlights from some of our teams:
- Bulloch County Alcohol and Drug Council DEFY YAT identified underage drinking as a problem in their community. The team planned a DEFY YAT Drug Free Kickback in the four county middle schools to provide information on underage drinking prevention with ways to decrease negative peer pressure.
- Cobb Alcohol Taskforce YAT stated their problem was a lack of awareness of the dangers of underage drinking. With the goal of raising awareness of adult influence on teens, the team planned a 5K Color Run. The Color Run will increase the YAT’s interaction with community youth and adults and educate them on substance abuse statistics.
- Spalding County Youth Action Council identified underage drinking as an issue and planned to implement the “Simply Sober, Simply Me” Campaign to help prevent and reduce underage drinking by sharing information and leveraging resources. To change perceptions and behaviors of the citizens of Spalding County, the team created “The Breakout Conference: Creating a New Cool.” They also planned a 70’s party to reinforce the 70/30 statistic. Using the data from the needs assessment and positive social norms, the party will show that 70% of teens do not drink alcohol.
- A new team to GTI, the Walton County Youth Advocacy Board, identified two problems they would like to address: underage drinking and lack of understanding of Cultural Competency. Their goal is to redefine Cultural Competency in Walton County and promote positive messages around youth in all aspects, including the importance of remaining alcohol and drug free was the goal statement they wrote. Using the Open Minded Movement, the team planned a Cotton Café Monologue Event and the Haunted House of Addictions.
- Parkview High School SAVE/SADD, a team who has attended GTI for numerous years, decided to take a new approach to the problem of underage drinking this year. The team wanted to increase visibility of alcohol free fun, parties and events throughout the year, while also communicating the dangers of underage drinking. Using information from their needs assessment, the team recognized that after parties with alcohol following sporting events is an issue in their community. To reduce this problem, the team planned the #DrugFreeTurnUp project. Throughout the school year, the team will attend a variety of school sporting events and distribute giveaways during the games to spread an alcohol free message to students and adults.
Now the real fun begins. Over the next year, we get to watch all of our awesome Youth Action Teams implement their projects and change their communities and the world. We can’t wait to see how they go! Thank you to all of our teams for your hard work throughout the week and your dedication to Make It Matter back in your communities!
Family Groups are often the highlight for participants year after year, and it’s no surprise why. Family Groups are comprised of youth from across the state to engage in discussion, reflection, games and activities. Each session was designed to build skills, friendships and self-esteem while encouraging networking among youth from diverse backgrounds. Family Groups met daily to get to know each other, have fun and experienced how a group of strangers can become like family by learning to trust and care for each other in a matter of a few short days.
A long-time tradition at GTI is having Secret Pals in your Family Group, and this year they were another huge hit. On Day 1, participants picked their Secret Pal and had the responsibility of not only keeping themselves a secret, but also placing something on the Warm Fuzzy Board each day. This year, the board was filled with all kids of goodies, including hand written notes, items purchased from the GTI store, stickers, snacks and crafts made during Arts and Crafts. Each day, participants eagerly checked the board looking for something from their Secret Pal.
Sticking with the beach theme, several of our Family Group activities continued our beach journey. Family Groups created wind chimes, which were pieces of art that can only make music when all of the pieces work together. The wind chime also showed how diverse the Family Group was because no two people had the exact same seashell. Each participant was able to keep a seashell of their own to reflect on the beauty, uniqueness and importance of each person who came to the GTI beach. Any trip to the beach would not be complete without a scrapbook full of memories, and this journey was no different. Everyone was able to complete their GTI Scrapbook to remember their experience at camp.
Family Groups also completed several team building activities to encourage youth to practice their leadership skills with people they were not familiar with. This year that included activities such as Anti Gravity Hoop, Disaster Control and Telephone Charades. Each Family Group was divided in half and the teams had to race in order to lower their hula hoop to the ground first during Anti Gravity Hoop. As a way to enhance “Personal Power” (when a young person feels he or she has control over things that happen to them), Family Groups worked in small groups to decide what three items they would have in their flood preparedness kit, during the Disaster Control activity. Telephone Charades was also a hit, where groups had to compete to get their “message” down the telephone line, using only their finest acting skills. Each Family Group had the opportunity to bond, laugh and develop leadership skills with youth from other teams across Georgia.
Adult Advisors participated in a Family Group of their own, having just as much fun as the youth. Each Adult Family Group starts out with Door Prizes, and they were required to show off their best Door Prize Dance. This year, the Adults participated in activities such as Beach Ball Thumb Ball, Animated Skit, Spoonful of Questions and many more. Adult Advisors had the opportunity to network with other professionals throughout the state, which is one of the many benefits of attending GTI. Not only are Advisors sharing project ideas, but also resources and connections they have to help make Georgia a better place. Adult Advisors also participate in Secret Pals and this year they really stepped it up in the gift giving. Several adults received Secret Pal prize packs filled with treats and items to share with their team members. The incredible Adult Advisors who are a part of our statewide initiative also participated in a networking meeting. During the meeting, event reports, contracts and other logistical items were discussed. Each Adult Advisor served as positive adult role models to our youth, and this year we had the opportunity to thank them during each Family Group meeting with small prizes like notebooks, pens, and the limited edition GTI visor.
We truly could not have asked for better Team Meetings and Family Groups this year. We are excited to see all of these incredible projects implemented and how our Youth Action Teams use the skills they built and tools received at GTI to grow and strengthen their communities over the next year. Want to know even more about what we did at GTI 2014? Please stay tuned for our next blog post, which will cover the workshop opportunities we offered participants.