bird copyA new substance-abuse program will be implemented at Ketchikan High School this year. The Ketchikan Wellness Coalition received funding through the federal Drug-Free Communities grant program to hire high school students as peer counselors and leaders. The students work with KWC staff to develop programs and activities promoting a drug-free life and supportive relationships.

The students hired for the program are incoming senior Rachel Winburn and junior Vince Tenebo. Winburn says she and Tenebo have been discussing ideas with KWC staff, and gathering information. She says promoting a drug-free life will always be included in program activities, but an upcoming session will focus on identifying adult mentors.

“This upcoming one is more along the lines of helping these kids move forward successfully in their lives by having different ties with different people that they can rely back on, not just their parents.  Family members, coaches, teachers, other people that they can rely on.”

Kevin Gadsey is the executive director of KWC. He says studies show having a web of support of at least five adults is important for keeping students drug free. Gadsey says teen mentors are key in developing effective communication.

“In the office, I think we’re all 40 or older. We don’t know the ways. Rachel has already educated us on Snap Chat and some of the other snap-related marketing abilities.”

News TileGadsey says specifics for the program are still under development. He hopes much of the messaging will be created by Winburn and Tenebo, with KWC staff providing support and direction.

“Whereas we give a larger ball or a larger circle of ‘Here’s sort of where we are going’, and ‘How can we refine this to be able to reach high school students?’”

Gadsey says one part of the grant requires putting together an activity group of teen leaders. He says the vision is a counsel of councils.

“So there might be a representative from each of the sporting groups, faith-based groups, speech and debate, Future Teachers of America, Key Club, Rotary Interact, all of these different clubs will be able to bring that out. And we’ll be able to have them be part of this group to be able to take the message back to their teams.”

Tenebo is active in sports. He says he hopes to attract sports groups, and others, into the program to join the council.

“It’s going to create ties and that’s going to lead to connection where we really can control each other. Get away from drugs and really move forward in high school without using drugs or alcohol while having fun.”

Gadsey says this the second year of a 10-year grant, and KWC hopes to continue the in-school program in future years.

Classes start August 24th for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District and Winburn and Tenebo plan to have the first activity by the first or second w