Middle Park eighth-graders hear about social woes during mentoring presentation | SkyHiNews.com

Middle Park eighth-graders hear about social woes during mentoring presentation

Katie Looby
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

As East Grand Middle School eighth-graders prepare to help start a mentoring program in Grand County, they heard facts and statistics Thursday from several Grand County agencies.

At the meeting they found out drug, alcohol, sexual and child abuse are on the rise and the state of the economy could be a factor in this.

“There was a lot of teen pregnancies and a lot of people who do drugs,” said eighth-grader Macey Benner of Winter Park about what she learned.

“There’s still a group of us who are not involved in those things,” said Middle Park High School senior Heidi Guenther, 18, of Granby. “Our No. 1 goal is to have as much fun as we can … Students don’t have to be influenced by their peers.”

Guenther and Alyssa Casteel, 18, of Grand Lake are both members of Switch 180, a group of Middle Park High students. Switch 180’s goal is to promote a positive environment through wellness, fun and good choices.

“We really want to promote wellness,” Casteel added.

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In addition, she said one alternative to going to a party would be stay home and read a book. Casteel participates on the soccer team, while Guenther snowboards. The group has also thrown a Guitar Hero night, movie night and an open mic coffee night.

At the end of their presentation they invited the youth to join next year.

The forum agenda included Youth Diversion, Social Services, Grand Futures, Grand Youth Adventures, Grand County Advocates, Switch 180, Grand County Public Health, and Grand County Center for Excellence.

Violence, abuse and crime increases are part of the impact of the economy said representatives from Social Services. Taunnia Shipman, who works with families who abuse or neglect children, said Social Services supports a mentoring program in Grand County.

Larry Norman from Grand County Center 4 Excellence talked about the difference between mentors and role models. Almost everyone in the room raised their arms when he asked them if they had a role model. People need both, he said.

“A mentor is someone who should inspire you,” Norman said. “You can become mentors to adults, you can become mentors to your siblings.”

Marissa Lorenz from Grand County Advocates talked about domestic abuse. Most victims are under 18 years old. In Grand County calls have gone up by 60 percent within two years, she said.

“The economy just makes it worse or more frequent,” Lorenz added.

In addition, if children are raised in this environment they will learn this behavior and males are more likely to be abusive and females to be abused. The only way to break the cycle is for someone to intervene, she added.

The public forum lasted about an hour.

The eighth-graders will compile the information and create a presentation to deliver at Granby, Hot Sulphur and Grand Lake town board meetings in March and April, said teacher Abby Loberg.

Students are focusing this year’s service learning project on bringing back a mentoring program. The independent mentoring program would provide positive role models to children and teens who don’t have one in their lives.

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