Concerns about the risky behavior of some of her peers and the safety of all students motivated Trista Burris to put her worries into action.
Burris, a senior at Soroco High School in Oak Creek, was the driving force behind Monday's Awareness Day, an effort to educate and inform the school's students about pressing issues such as binge drinking, methamphetamine use, safe driving and career planning.
Several recent events in Burris' life led to the idea for Awareness Day, a three-hour event that school officials hope will become an annual activity. She lost a friend to suicide, a death she attributed to meth addiction, and her mom was seriously injured in an automobile accident.
"I just thought it would be a good idea to bring up some of the issues that are concerning," Burris said.
School counselor Lisa Idelberg helped Burris and several other student peer counselors put together Awareness Day, which included visits from local professionals who led discussions about the day's four highlighted topics: safe driving, binge drinking and meth abuse, suicide prevention and career planning.
"The goal is to educate our students on issues that are really affecting them," Idelberg said. "Just bringing the issues to the forefront is a step in the right direction, as opposed to hoping they're addressed elsewhere."
Michael Loomis of Northwest Driving Academy shared with students statistics about youth driving and offered advice about how to be better drivers. Carol Gordon of the Suicide Prevention Coalition was joined by three Steamboat Springs High School students to present local and national suicide statistics and to discuss some of the conditions, such as depression, that can lead to suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Business teacher Angie Blair, Brian Bradbury of the Colorado Workforce Center and Bobbie Vetter of Colorado Northwest Community College offered students guidance on career planning and preparation.
Students Karlie Maneotis and Colleen Treanor discussed the effects of binge drinking, and Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team Officer Dan Kelliher discussed meth and its effects on users. Included in his presentation were graphic pictures of meth addicts and meth labs. He also set up a table with some of the common ingredients and tools used in meth production.
All the school's students participated in Awareness Day. Each student selected the three presentations he or she most wanted to hear and rotated stations throughout the morning.
Principal James Chamberlin said the timing of Awareness Day was important. With the holidays approaching, students will be out of school and hanging out with friends, increasing the potential for dangerous situations.
Awareness Day also addressed issues that some parents have said need to be a bigger part of the school's curriculum, Chamberlin said.
"These are the things that are going on in (students') lives," Chamberlin said. "Hopefully the outcome will be that at least one kid thinks before they make a poor choice."
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