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Glenvar Coalition Helps Students Fight Risky Behaviors

Students at coalition meetings like this one in Southwest Roanoke County strategize on combating risky behaviors.

by Gene Marrano

One of several groups set up at county high schools and middle schools, the Glenvar Coalition (also known as the Community Action Team) meets monthly to discuss how to curb abusive behaviors in young people. Student representatives from Glenvar Middle and Glenvar High help set the agenda, along with teachers, guidance counselors, school resource officers and parents. Then they fan out, setting examples for other teens, even making presentations to students in the lower grades.

The coalition is an offshoot of the Roanoke County Prevention Council, a federally funded program that measures risky and abusive behaviors in county schools, then devises programs to combat those behaviors. There are also strong coalitions in southwest Roanoke County and at William Byrd High School in Vinton.

Getting teachers, school administrators and parents involved is always a focus of the Prevention Council, but student participation is a major driver as well. This Friday many of them will take part in the third annual talent show, at 7 p.m. (Feb. 4) in the Glenvar high school auditorium.

This year’s show features students from Glenvar Middle School’s 8th grade as well as all grades in the high school. Music will be supplied by a band called Paddleboat.  This year’s theme is “If you don’t know who you are, start with who you’re not.”  The struggle teens face in finding their identity will be incorporated into sketches.

Tabitha Cain, a former Prevention Council employee whose daughter Ariel was a prominent member of the Glenvar Coalition (Ariel is now at Radford) said 10-15 students from the 7th grade and up typically show up for the monthly meetings. “We’re in our third year of strong youth participation,” said Cain. Her daughter has become a public speaker on drug and alcohol abuse. “She’s the one that got me involved with prevention to begin with,” said Cain.

Last year student members of the Glenvar Coalition went to all of the feeder schools that send children on to the middle and high school. “They just felt like they could help [young students] cope, because they had just gone through it themselves,” said Cain.

Presentations to 5th graders last year focused on Internet and cell phone safety; there were also questions from elementary school students about bullying. Some wanted to know “if they were going to walk down the halls [in high school] and see drugs and alcohol,” added Cain.

She cites “excellent support” from the principals at both Glenvar Middle and Glenvar High, which allow student coalition members to be excused from classes to take part in special activities and meetings. The Glenvar Coalition has also partnered with other youth groups that seek to curb abusive behaviors in teens.

Given every two years, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (which asks students in middle and schools about drug and alcohol use, bullying, etc.) showed signs of progress in some areas, while issues like abusive text messages and “sexting” started to become more apparent.

New statistics and information from the survey, analyzed by the Roanoke County Prevention Council, will be presented in a PowerPoint presentation before the talent show on Friday.  Glenvar students will focus on and discuss certain survey results – positive and negative – during the presentation.

“The group has just taken on its own dynamic,” said Cain, “it’s really exciting to see.” Tickets at the door for Friday’s talent show at Glenvar High School are $3 for adults and $1 for students. Proceeds will go back to the Glenvar Coalition to support their outreach efforts.

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