Steamboat Springs If teens are going to successfully navigate their way through the difficult challenges they face, adults have to help them on a daily basis, community members were told Monday night during a Challenge Day program at Olympian Hall.
"I have two teen-agers and they want me to stay out of their lives as much as possible," said Bob Peterson, a parent who attended the meeting. "But I'm going to stare them in their eyes and see what makes them tick."
Challenge Day is a national program developed by Richard Dutra-St. John and his wife, Yvonne. The two-hour program involves a number of exercises aimed at helping youth deal with the complex issues they face on a daily basis.
Monday's program included a community meeting led by the Dutra-St. Johns, during which the couple challenged the 50 or so parents and community members to connect and communicate not only with the city's youth but with everyone around them.
Richard Dutra-St. John said it is up to the adults in the community to teach youth to love each other and tear down the walls of cliques and groups.
"We have to show youth the experience that they have more in common than different," he said.
The Dutra-St. Johns created the Challenge program in 1987 following their own child's experience in high school. The program has received numerous awards from the juvenile justice system, government officials and school districts.
Richard Dutra-St. John said adults must serve as role models, helping teens with issues such as body image, race, sexual assaults, violence, aggression and drugs and alcohol.
"They (youth) don't care what we say," he said. "They care what we do. It's not about having answers."
Keith Denton, a junior who attended the meeting, said it is critical for adults to set a standard for the community's youth to follow.
"This is a ski town," Denton said. "But what adults do has an effect on youth in this beautiful place."
Through a couple of interactive discussions and activities, Richard Dutra-St. John gave parents and community members tips on how to make changes in the community.
In one activity, each person talked with a stranger for two minutes.
Through the exercise, he stressed that people listen.
"We have to listen," he said. "Taking time to sit down and really care matters to them."
At the end of the meeting, Richard Dutra-St. John challenged each person to make a change to improve the community.
Joan Allsberry, a high school counselor who organized the meeting, said the event went well but was disappointed with the attendance from the community.
To promote the meeting, the high school sent out 1,300 fliers to parents and members of the community.
Jason Patrick, high school resource officer, said the meeting went well, but if the community expects to create a bond with its youth, more parents have to get involved.
"I wish more people would get this message," he said. "This is a powerful presentation."
Officials from Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and Advocates Against Battering and Abuse also attended the meeting.
Richard Dutra-St. John said his program can give the community tools in how to make a difference.
"All I can give you is a glimpse of what is possible," he said. "It is up to the people here to do it."
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