‘Our elevation is high enough’: Local youth promote positive choices | VailDaily.com

‘Our elevation is high enough’: Local youth promote positive choices

With summer around the corner, the Eagle River Youth Coalition is sharing messages to keep teens aware and able to make solid choices.

Based on the results of the organization's bi-annual Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, interns and youth leaders created taglines, including "Getting lit doesn't make you shine brighter," "Our elevation is high enough" and "Is a text worth your life?"

These messages are shared on cool swag items that the teens use regularly, including lanyards and buffs or neck warmers.

"This information is used to convene the community around strengths and needs facing young people," executive director Michelle Stecher said of the survey. "Positive behaviors are celebrated through a positive messaging campaign, intended to shift the social or behavioral norm to become more positive. Think, 'peer pressure in a positive manner.'"

'Value Myself'

In October, Britney Chavez, ERYC's entrepreneurial middle school intern, started with a simple survey identifying what her Berry Creek Middle School class thought were the strengths and weaknesses of their school community, based on Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data and general perspectives.

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Strengths include sports, support and friendship. Weaknesses include use of drugs, teasing, gossip amongst peers and fighting.

From these early discussions, ERYC and the Berry Creek class agreed mental health should be a focal point.

"What we found," Chavez said, "is that most Eagle County Middle School students are accepting and inclusive of all their peers. While we all wanted to celebrate, we still felt the statistics should be more positive: 53 percent reported never being bullied on school property. The team worked to create positive messaging in this regard.

"You need to value yourself and care about yourself before you can do the same for others. That is how we came up with the message of: 'I value myself and my peers.'"

The class put their message onto water bottles.

Chavez has been visiting middle schools throughout the county, sharing the message and explaining just how they came up with the tagline. To date, the message, and water bottles, have been shared with nearly 1,200 local middle schoolers.

Positive Choices

The survey showed that 65 percent of Eagle County high schoolers did not drink alcohol in the past 30 days, 80 percent didn't use marijuana in the past 30 days and 65 percent don't email or text while driving.

"We really wanted to celebrate the positive choices Eagle County youth are making," Stecher said. "The response to the social norms campaign has been overwhelmingly positive and allows us to open up discussion."

To learn more about the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, Eagle River Youth Coalition programs and opportunities for teens this summer, visit http://www.eagleyouth.org.

Entertainment & Outdoors Editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

By the numbers

• 65 percent of Eagle County high schoolers did not drink alcohol in the past 30 days.

• 80 percent didn’t use marijuana in the past 30 days.

• 65 percent don’t email or text while driving.

Source: Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Kids Colorado Survey