For Teens, By Teens: A report on M-W Middle School Teen Mission

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    CENTRAL VALLEY-While there is no sure way to prevent substance abuse, students fortunate enough to hear this year's Teen Mission keynote speaker Cindy Pepper probably left with an indelible memory of the realities of taking chance. Pepper has taken her own personal tragedy on the road to help others; one of her own children became progressively involved with drugs from an early age. Despite interventions and both family and professional support, her son is now permanently disabled and suffers from schizophrenia, the result of years of drug abuse. Rarely has this issue been made so intimately and emotionally to an audience who listened, asked questions, and clearly heard the message, leaving the room largely in tears. This was part of Teen Mission 2005, an annual program for M-W Middle School students held on a sunny Sunday afternoon in April, attracting about 200 students. They came together to participate in workshops, learn about themselves, and celebrate being a teenager. In addition to the keynote speaker, workshops were held covering a range of issues facing teenagers; the topics were selected by students themselves. A workshop or rumors, drama and gossip was led by Kimberley Elizares, a social work graduate student interning at Jewish Family Services. The issues hit home as they were roll-played by Teen Mission's high school students. Wazine Zondon led discussion on diversity and cliques Many of the issues she raised were familiar to the audience as they realized they are not alone in their thoughts. Zondon holds a degree in International Relations and Women's Studies and is active in the field of diversity and human rights. A very pointed workshop covered the topics of eating disorders and cutting - two self destructive disorders that can be life threatening. Led by social worker Linda Certo,and psychotherapist Diana Chillo, both from Occupations Inc., the session dramatized the devastating nature of these disorders and alternative behaviors that help avoid the dangers. The day concluded with a wrap-up party of dinner, dancing, entertainment and prizes, a as teenagers celebrated being a teenager, bonding with their peers, and starting the next transition to high school. Teen Mission was created after the Columbine tragedy to give students a sense of individual empowerment and a place to share common concerns. Members bring their upbeat spirit and commitment to a myriad of community projects throughout the year. Students entering the seventh and eighth grades in the fall who are interested in learning about Teen Mission should contact Roseann Ruggiero at 224-5277.