Crawfordville, Florida --
The Wakulla County Coalition for Youth is pleased to announce the selection of four high school students for the Engaging Youth Initiative. The Engaging Youth Initiative is a program funded by a grant from the Florida Office of Drug Control called Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws. Wakulla County Coalition for Youth was one of only six coalitions in Florida selected to receive this grant. The program is a statewide initiative to engage teenage leaders in the work of positive community change. The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the coalition to facilitate this program. In Wakulla County there is a team of 13 adult advisors from various prevention agencies within the county. This program is a year-long commitment with monthly meetings, trainings to attend and a project to complete. The focus will be to actively engage youth in the county regarding prevention of underage drinking.
Applications from high school youths were submitted to the coalition and Morgan Kilgore, Natalie Crum, Maritza Jackson and Jessica Ottenbaker were chosen to represent Wakulla County. A $500 scholarship or stipend will be awarded to each youth chosen at the end of the project. Each of the girls selected are excellent students, leaders among their peers and actively involved in sports and volunteer work.
Morgan Kilgore is a sophomore and a strong athlete in weightlifting. A native of Wakulla County, she loves the outdoors and hunting. Natalie Crum is also a sophomore and plays volleyball for the Wakulla Lady Ware Eagles team. Maritza Jackson is a junior and dances on the Wakulla dance team and is involved in the Sheriff’s Explorers post. She hopes to become a lawyer in the future. Jessica Ottenbaker is also a junior. She enjoys volunteering her time at the Wakulla County Animal Shelter. Her interests are in the law enforcement field.
On Oct. 15, the girls along with Lisa Russell and Erika Fore of the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office attended training in Tampa with other youth leaders from Pinellas, Seminole, Volusia and Marion counties. During the first training session they practiced leadership skills and teamwork and learned what it means to have integrity. In addition, they did many fun activities with the other youths while learning how to get an audience’s attention, how to have fun and to keep them engaged. They discussed the history of alcohol and how it is marketed at Busch Gardens and in the media. They learned how to conduct environmental scans concerning the sale of alcohol, how it is purchased, whether patrons are asked for identification, how it is being consumed and various other factors. Each county was assigned to do an environmental scan at Busch Gardens in Tampa on Saturday night. Their mission was to take notes, pictures, videos, and interviews on how alcohol is advertised to teenagers and adults and make recommendations on how to improve advertising practices that seem to target underage drinkers. They looked at prices, sizes of drinks, what type of alcohol was sold the most, which gender drinks more and at what time during and the behavior of the people drinking in the theme park. On the last day of training each county gave a PowerPoint presentation on their results of the environmental scan at Busch Gardens.
In the coming months the girls will be conducting environmental scans at festivals and establishments where alcohol is being sold and implement a plan of action for their project while working with the WCCY adult advisory members. In 2011, they will implement their project and present results and conclusions to the Wakulla County Coalition for Youth and attend the 2011 Florida Statewide Prevention Conference scheduled in Orlando.
For more information, call the Wakulla County Coalition for Youth at 926-3526.
A picture of the group is attached to this article.