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teens

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Priscilla Behnke. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Priscilla Behnke

With the Tide Pod challenge slowly losing steam, it’s important to remember the No. 1 ingested poison by teens in Maricopa is alcohol.

According to the latest Arizona Youth Survey (2016), roughly 860 teens consumed alcohol last month. It is more students than are enrolled at Maricopa Elementary School. The survey also told us of those who drank, 68 binge-drank (five or more drinks in one setting); 300 got their alcohol at a party and 200 directly by their parents. Thirty-five reported driving while drunk. And 138 reported riding in a car with a drunk driver.

We do not know if it is a friend or parent who was drunk while driving. We do know they thought a drunk driver was an acceptable mode of transportation.

Alcohol abuse by teens is not a right of passage. It is a risk with possible lifelong consequences. Seventy-five percent of alcoholics began drinking before age 15. The AYS showed 14 was the average age of first use by Maricopa teens. Even scarier is aggregated data show eighth graders are starting at 11.

If alcohol prevention isn’t taken seriously by those guiding this generation, they won’t be burning their mouths on Tide Pods; they will be sinking their potential down a glass of vodka or becoming another statistic on the 347.

Parents should not be passive bystanders as children aimlessly wander through adolescence. It is a common misconception that underage drinking is OK if done with the parent. Research shows that kids who drink with their parents will drink without their parents. But teens whose parents talk with them about their disapproval of underage drinking are less likely to drink.

Here are some tips to help you lead the fight for prevention in your home:

  1. Know the facts and share them with your child. Misinformation is bombarding your child daily. Share early and share often.
  2. Set firm rules around drugs and alcohol in the home, let them know you expect them to abstain and, if they don’t, what the consequences will be. Then follow through.
  3. Monitor your alcohol and lock it up if you have too.

If you’re wondering if your teen is already using, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Changes in style of clothing, hair or music.
  • Hanging out with a bad crowd or new friends you don’t know.
  • Isolating from the family.
  • Changes in attitude or sudden burst of anger.
  • Paranoia – acting like everyone is out to get them.

If you and your family need assistance finding help with alcohol and drug treatment, contact the Be Awesome Youth Coalition at 520-428-7750.

Priscilla Behnke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Coalition.


This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Mariocpa teen Cassandra Presume. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

 

Cassandra Presume, 16, wants to be an actor.

Participating in her school’s theatrical projects is one thing. Positioning herself to be noticed by talent agents is another. Forget the movie clichés; there’s no easy or inexpensive way to do this.

Cassandra, a resident of Cobblestone Farms, took six months of courses at a Barbizon Modeling and Acting School to aim for her real goal. That is a shot at the International Modeling & Talent Agency.

“It’s to get yourself out there to a lot of agents, and they’ll call back if you appeal to them,” Cassandra said. “It could open up a lot of jobs.”

“A lot of well-known actresses have gone through this,” said her mother Antonia Presume. “It’s like a first step.”

IMTA touts a long list of famous former clients since 1987, like Eva Longoria and Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamal, Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel. The agency says it puts its top talent in front of agents, casting directors and producers. But to get there, the talent has to pay for training.

In Cassandra’s case, it was mostly presentation skills. Barbizon taught auditioning etiquette and makeup, runway walking, commercial modeling versus high-end modeling. She took the courses while attending her regular classes at Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee.

“I think it helped a lot with my confidence, and I made a couple of new friends,” she said. “It was nice to know some people that have the same goals as you and would understand the type of work you have to put in.”

In school she has been part of the MP Theatre Company. This year, she has performed in The Adding Machine, Almost, Maine and a one-act play. For Fences, she was chief of the costume crew. Since sixth grade, she has been involved in children’s theatrical programs and was even part of a Disney-sponsored program.

Now that she is finished with Barbizon training, Cassandra is trying to raise or save $6,000 to go to the IMTA training for four days in New York in July. There, the acting competitions include cold reads, monologues and TV commercials.

“They have jean competitions, where you get to show off a pair of jeans,” Cassandra said with a grin. “I don’t think height matters, so I’m excited for that one.”

“And there are a lot of workshops, so every time you step out, you’re in front of a lot of agents,” Antonia Presume said.

She said the family has supported Cassandra’s ambitions “because we figured it would be great for her to have the confidence, and also public speaking. So, we put a spin of education on it as well. Whenever she goes auditioning, to us it adds value to her education.”

The Presumes have lived in Maricopa since 2006, moving to Arizona from Massachusetts. Cassandra’s father Garry works for Intel. She has a twin brother and two older brothers, one of whom attended Maricopa High School.

Antonia Presume also said any work her daughter lands could help pay for her college. “Education for us is No. 1,” she said. “They won’t allow you to take classes if your grades suffer. That’s one of the things we liked about the program.”

To help raise money for the July trip, Antonia has been selling gift baskets. She took out a business license for Joia Baskets because of the number of orders she has received. IMTA also provides fund-raising help through flat-screen TVs, laptops and iPads that families can raffle off, with the parents receiving all proceeds. They also offer tips for how to approach local businesses, something that is not in Antonia’s comfort zone.

She intends to travel with Cassandra on the July trip to make sure she’s safe. “Especially with what we see nowadays, I’m going to New York with her. I’m going to watch my child every step of the way.”

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Volunteer Rosie Kuzmic teaches teens about the roles of the court clerk and bailiff. Kuzmic has 30 years’ experience working in the court system. Photo by Michelle Chance

Local teenagers participated in the first training for the Maricopa Teen Court Wednesday at Copper Sky.

Nearly 25 students interested in becoming officers of the developing court heard from county legal experts and volunteers familiar with court roles and proceedings.

Pinal County Juvenile Probation Supervisor Teresa Fuller said a majority of the teens in attendance are students of Student Choice High School, a small charter school that operates out of Copper Sky.

Jim Davis, executive director of SCHS, said students will earn an elective credit for their participation in the training and future volunteer work with the teen court.

Davis said the credit opportunity was offered to every student at the school for the educational component the experience brings, but also in the hopes it could inspire career paths.

“The ultimate goal for us is to create an engagement piece so that (students) get to do something that might spark an interest of something in the future that they would do,” Davis said.

The teen court program is just one way the school is looking to collaborate with community agencies. The school is on track to partner with the Maricopa Police Department as well, Davis said.

There are five Student Choice High School locations in Arizona; the Maricopa campus functions as “drop-out recovery,” according to its website.

“Our ultimate goal is to get kids off the streets and to get them to finish their diploma so it impacts the community in a very positive way,” Davis said.

Fuller said teens who registered for the training but did not attend Wednesday’s meeting are still eligible to join the remainder of the trainings Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Copper Sky.

For more information contact Teresa Fuller at tefuller@courts.az.gov or (520) 866-7061.

 

Maricopa will soon pilot the only teen court in Pinal County.

Teenagers begin a three-day training at Copper Sky on Wednesday, hosted by representatives of the Pinal County Juvenile Probation Department.

Teresa Fuller, juvenile probation supervisor with the county, said teenagers will fill the roles of defense attorney, prosecution, bailiff, victims’ advocate and jury in future cases involving their peers.

“The (hearings) are going to be held by teens, so we are going to go over how to do opening and closing statements, how to present a case, all of that,” Fuller said.

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer and Maricopa/Stanfield Justice of the Peace Lyle Riggs will be among the local legal experts who will provide some of the training.

Teens will learn the types of cases heard in the court, as well as “what consequences are available within the teen court program or what interventions are available per respondent,” Fuller said.

Fuller’s department began considering Maricopa for a teen court early this year after county data revealed the percentage of teen juvenile referrals in the city had increased slightly over the past two years compared to other cities.

San Tan, Casa Grande and Maricopa hold the highest number of juvenile referrals in the county. Maricopa was the only one that witnessed a rise in teen referrals, while the other two cities saw a decrease in percentages.

In January, Fuller pitched the idea to local government, educational, and community agencies. As a result, three work groups were formed to implement the court, one of which was a panel of teens.

“They wrote their code of conduct, their oath of confidentiality and their dress code,” Fuller said.

Teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 are eligible to attend training July 26-28 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Copper Sky Recreational Center. Eighteen-year-olds who apply must still be enrolled in high school.

Fuller said teenagers do not have to live in Maricopa to be an officer of the teen court or to attend the training.

To register, contact Fuller at tefuller@courts.az.gov or (520) 866-7061.

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Teens have signed up to do some good this summer in Maricopa. Photo by Michelle Chance

Forty teenagers in Maricopa are volunteering to become “future leaders” in the community.

Zachary Schroeder, 13, is one of them. He and his friend, 14-year-old Morgan Godfrey, attended orientation of the Future Leaders Teen Summer Volunteer Program Wednesday at Copper Sky.

However, the experience isn’t entirely new for them.

Both teens volunteered in the city-run program last year and assisted aides in the city’s Summer Fun & Fitness Camps – which cater to young children between 5 and 12 years old.

Schroeder and Godfrey said it was an opportunity to socialize and gain volunteer hours, but most important to them was their time spent with the kids.

Recreation Coordinator Heather Lozano said the teens mean a lot to the campers too.

“It gives them somebody to look up to. It gives them a mentor,” Lozano said.

Before Schroeder was a future leader volunteer, he himself was a camper. His mother, Jennifer, said she has seen her son take on more volunteer and leadership opportunities since his first experience with the program.

She said it also helps prepare young teens for the real world.

“There are not a lot of opportunities for kids this age to be able to get out there to learn what it’s like to work,” Jennifer Schroeder said. “So this gives them a chance to get out there and do a job and see what it’s like to be responsible and become a leader.”

Teens volunteer at four camp locations around the city for six weeks: two at Copper Sky, one at Maricopa Elementary School and another at Saddleback Elementary School.

The camps run Monday through Friday for four hours per day.

Lozano said this is the biggest group of volunteers she has had in the program and added she may have to expand it next year.

Teens who complete the program receive a letter of recommendation from Lozano, which includes the number of hours volunteered.

It’s an opportunity for the teens looking to build their resume, Lozano explained, as well as the possibility of future employment.

“I have actually hired staff from future leaders,” Lozano said.

Camp begins for volunteers and campers June 5.

Photo by Michelle Chance