Students bring awareness to high-risk behavior

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— A group of Steamboat Springs High School seniors is bringing awareness and caution to high-risk behavior, one student at a time.

The nine-member senior leadership group, which was formed last school year with a mission to unite the school's population and promote understanding, has taken on an important, but sensitive, job -- talking to its peers about their behavior.

In May 2002, approximately 80 percent of the high school's students completed the lengthy SteamboatCARES survey, developed by Dr. Dan Smilkstein and high school administrators.

The survey dealt with a variety of subjects and behaviors including drug, alcohol and tobacco use, family life, suicide and sex.

Compilation of the resulting data was completed in the fall, and Smilkstein published some of the results in a two-part medical series that ran in the Steamboat Today.

The senior leadership group was alarmed by some of the results from the survey, enough so that it was determined to address some of the issues and behaviors of their peers.

"The reality is that things do happen here," group member Will Zimmerer said. "We're not just this small community that's isolated from real-world things."

Senior Mike Holland said fellow students need to realize that some of their actions, such as drinking, may be perceived as harmless, but that actions that result from drinking carry serious consequences.

"I really want people to make some more educated decisions," Holland said. "What goes on when you drink is what the administration and the community is concerned about."

The group has spent an incredible amount of time analyzing the statistics and determining ways to discuss them with their classmates. Ultimately, the group decided to share the results with individual classes.

So far, those discussions have been positive, the group said.

For one thing, students are more receptive to the information being presented to them by kids their age instead of teachers, counselors and administrators, group member Marissa Bucci said.

However, there are challenges.

"It's so hard not be just another mini-lesson on drugs," Kyle Nelson said.

To that end, the senior leadership group has worked to create a discussion-oriented atmosphere.

Survey statistics have already been presented to the sophomore and junior classes and high school and middle school staffs. The group will begin presenting to seniors and freshmen next.

Eventually, the group plans to present the statistics to the community, though the forum for doing so hasn't been determined. The group chose not to reveal the statistics until they can be presented to the community.

The community often perceives high school students negatively, senior Circe Pluto said. Presenting survey statistics to the community could create a mutual understanding between the community and the students, the group said.

In fact, many of the statistics show a strong similarity between the actions of Steamboat Springs adults and high school students, Principal Dave Schmid said.

"Our kids are probably not much different than the adults in our community," Schmid said.

While some statistics, such as those showing the prevalence of sexual assault within the school population, are particularly disturbing, many of the statistics are positive when compared to national averages, group members said.

"All stereotypes aren't true," Pluto said. "Not all kids drink or smoke marijuana."

Schmid is serving an advisory role to the group of seniors, but the group makes its own decisions.

"This is the direction they wanted to go," he said. "When I showed them the statistics, they felt pretty strongly that it was something they wanted to take on."

Schmid is impressed with the dedication the group has shown in this endeavor.

"I think they're making a difference," Schmid said. "They've given up so much of their own time to do this.

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