“It’s our responsibility as a community to provide kids with safe schools where they’re prepared to be professionally successful adults with strong commitment to their community.” As Principal of Elk Grove High School (EGHS) and the Immediate Past Chair of the Board for Kenneth Young Center, Paul Kelly has spent his career working directly with youth and leading educational excellence in his schools. “Our goal is to develop ethically sound, hard-working graduates.”
As part of Elk Grove High School’s commitment to students, they partnered with Kenneth Young Center’s Prevention Team to establish a Youth Advisory Council (commonly referred to as “YAC”) to promote positive and empowering programs that decrease the EGHS student population’s alcohol and drug consumption rates. Working with 9th-12th graders, YAC strives to create compelling prevention activities engaging both youth and adults to support stronger, safer communities.
YAC is a youth-led, adult-supported club at EGHS. School staff and Kenneth Young Center’s Prevention Team work with YAC student leaders to use data-driven strategies to combat community drug and alcohol use. Most recently, YAC has focused specifically on opioid addiction and providing inclusive programming for LGBTQ+ youth. Their mission is to “create a connection between Elk Grove High School students and the Elk Grove community”.
Last school year, YAC students organized two major events: free compliments day and SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week. For “Free Compliments” day, YAC members created posters during their meetings, then stationed themselves at the two main entrances of EGHS before school on a Monday morning. As students arrived to school that morning, YAC members shouted compliments to students. “Great style today!” “Love your backpack!” “You’re going to have an amazing day!” EGHS students stated that the morning compliments provided positive energy throughout the school. For SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week, students organized daily events to match health themes. Themes included prevention of opioid use, marijuana use, tobacco use, alcohol use, and suicide, as well as raising awareness around mental health topics to reduce the stigma.
Ray Galarza, Social Worker at Elk Grove High School shared, “YAC at EGHS is a unique club led by student for students to assist with various issues that might be difficult for students to navigate during adolescence. We are currently focusing on the following issues/concerns: Stress and anxiety, substance use, living healthy lifestyles, and other topics.”
Students started meeting at the end of August to set the new year’s goals to work in tandem with community-based initiatives and projects to prevent drug use.
“YAC helps to create community-minded, well-rounded students. I’m proud of our Grenadiers and look forward to supporting all our students as they grow into healthy and happy adults.” shared Principal Kelly.
To get involved with KYC’s Positive Youth Development Programs, contact Sherrine Peyton at (847) 285‑4520 for more information.
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