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Published on December 1st, 2015 | by Burlington Partnership

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Burlington Middle Schoolers Live Above the Influence

This November 13th and 14th, we funded nine students from Edmunds Middle School and Hunt Middle School to a two day “Above the Influence” retreat held at Saint Michael’s College. These students joined peers from six other middle schools in Chittenden County. The retreat was designed to help youth learn how to support their peers to live above the negative influences of drugs and alcohol.

We collaborated with four other prevention coalitions from Chittenden County to pool funding, time, and resources so area youth could connect with and get support from others their age choosing healthy lifestyles. Twelve local high school students helped plan the retreat, including our own BHS Sophomore Zhou Golden. At the retreat they lead team building activities to energize and educate the middle schoolers.

We used messaging, images, and activities created by the National Above the Influence campaign, a well-respected and recognized media campaign that encourages youth to stay true to who they are and live life substance free. Read more about the ATI campaign on our Chittenden County ATI Facebook page.

At the retreat, the students learned leadership skills and how to promote healthy lifestyle choices. Some activities were led by students from Essex High School’s Above the Influence group who were nationally recognized for their prevention efforts on MTV’s Unwasted Weekend. Students also heard from local expert Margo Austin about the negative impact of marijuana on youth development. They practiced public speaking and media production as a way to promote their messages with BPHC staff Mariah Sanderson and Jessica Summer and BPHC board member Meghan O’Rourke from the Center for Media and Democracy. Youth also had time for open discussion of the issues middle schoolers face.

Our director Mariah summed up the event to the media with these powerful words: “Youth are one of our most valuable resources to prevent substance abuse. Providing opportunities and support for youth leadership in community issues is proven to reduce negative outcomes for youth related to substance use, truancy, criminal behavior, and more. When we empower our youth to lead, we all benefit.”


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