Students to tackle issues, including violence, sexual assaults

Challenge Day kicks off Monday

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— When some Steamboat Springs High School students go through a program on risky behavior and violence among youth next week, the community will be asked to participate.

For three days next week, sophomores and juniors at the school will tackle issues such as gender, culture, sexual assaults, violence, aggression and drugs and alcohol through a national program called Challenge Day.

The program, which was created by Rich and Yvonne St. John-Dutra, is a full-day workshop that will tackle these issues through a series of games, activities and large and small group discussions.

The workshops will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and will also be attended by school faculty and are open to parents and community members.

As part of the program, school and Challenge Day officials are organizing a meeting for parents and the community to raise awareness about risky behavior among youth in the community.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Olympian Hall, 845 Howelsen Parkway.

School and law enforcement officials have expressed concerns this year about a perceived increase in sexual assaults, vandalism and parties where drugs and alcohol are being used by teen-agers. That prompted the decision to seek more participation from the community in helping address the concerns.

"We are not looking to create a committee or a new program," said Joan Allsberry, a school counselor who is helping to organize the meeting and the workshops. "The goal is to offer support to parents in helping youth make healthy choices. We also want to create a dialogue with the community and groups who share our same concerns."

Rich St. John-Dutra will facilitate Monday's meeting.

"I expect for the meeting to be very interactive," Allsberry said. "We would encourage anyone who has an interest in youth or is involved with youth to attend."

Agencies and groups invited to attend the meeting include the Steamboat Springs Police Department, Routt County Sheriff's Office, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and Advocates Against Battering and Abuse.

This is the second year in a row Steamboat Springs High School has offered the Challenge Day program.

Because of the issues the high school has dealt with this year, program officials are tailoring the program to address them, Allsberry said.

The students will be split into groups with program officials and parents and community members who volunteer.

"The groups will talk specifically about issues facing the school and the community," she said.

Rich and Yvonne St. John-Dutra started the program in 1987 because of their own teen's experience. They have received numerous awards from the juvenile justice system, government officials and school districts.

The school district is using a grant to pay for the program, Allsberry said.

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