Monthly Archives: June 2014

Team Building Activity: Beach Towel Flip

Beach Towel Flip

This is one of several fun and meaningful Team Building activities that we used at the 2014 Georgia Teen Institute. Though this was called “Beach Towel Flip” to coincide with our theme this summer, it can be used year-round (and you don’t even need a beach towel!).

IMG_1474Time Needed:  20-30 minutes

Group Size: Any, split into groups of 8-12

Materials:  Beach towel (or a plastic tablecloth, shower curtain, or tarp), masking tape, permanent markers  


RUS_6478Lay beach towel flat on floor.  Distribute two strips of tape and a marker to each group member.  Have group members gather around edges of beach towel.

Say:  Let’s each think of one healthy behavior we would like to practice and one unhealthy behavior we would like to leave behind to reinforce our goals of living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.  Have each person write down these two behaviors, one on each of his or her strips of masking tape.

RUS_6488Each person should place their HEALTHY BEHAVIOR onto the side of the beach towel that is facing upwards, so that the other members of the group can see it.  Take a few minutes for the group to share their behaviors with each other.  This shouldn’t take more than 4-5 minutes.

Have your group flip the beach towel over to the other side.  On this side, have participants place their UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOR piece of tape. You can allow these to be shared or not, depending on time and the maturity of your group.

IMG_1487Ask everyone to stand on the beach towel.  Once they are all on, tell them that their challenge—as a group—is to get past their barriers – their unhealthy behaviors – to their healthy behaviors.  In other words, they must flip the beach towel over…WITHOUT touching the ground underneath, around them or ANYTHING other than the towel and each other. 

Encourage participants to act with safety in mind and, as the facilitator, keep an eye on those who are close to the edge, etc. to ensure that no one falls or gets hurt.

Debrief Questions:

  • IMG_1493How was your team successful?
  • What strategies did you access to support each other in turning over the beach towel?
  • How was your communication affected by your physical closeness?
  • How was your decision making affected by your physical closeness and the task at hand?
  • How does the closeness of support impact your decision to practice helpful, healthy decision making?
  • What are the challenges that you think you face in committing to a drug-free lifestyle?
  • How can others support you in this commitment?

Making It Matter at GTI 2014

IMG_0872 (1)We stepped foot on the Oxford College campus on Friday, June 6 to begin what would become the best two weeks of the year: the 2014 Georgia Teen Institute. Week 1 of GTI was scheduled to begin the following Monday, and a lot of preparation was necessary to make sure we were ready for participants to arrive. As soon as the moving truck backed in to unload at the dorms, we started to piece together Command Central and the many components of camp that made us feel at home. The days leading up to the start of the program are often quiet, but a closer look at the calm scene reveals hard work, frantic preparation and tireless dedication to the cause. We kicked off with Staff Development Weekend 2 (a continuation from part 1 held in March), a time for staff to bond, learn their way around campus, practice the following weeks’ activities and set personal goals for their time at GTI. Volunteers, without whom our program would not be possible, spent the weekend sorting t-shirts, assembling manuals and preparing team building materials, among many other important tasks. Excitement built as the weekend came to an end and we met for our final staff meeting to reflect on the adventures we’d get to be a part of in the coming weeks.

IMG_1512Our theme this year was Make It Matter, inspired by The Starfish Story by Loren Eiseley. This story reminds us that our actions can make a positive difference, even if just in the life of one other person, and that our efforts are never wasted if one person is impacted for the better. Each staff member looked forward to making a difference. In fact, it was our goal to Make It Matter for every single participant who would attend the program.

IMG_1034 (1)All of a sudden, it started to feel like GTI. Youth Action Teams began pouring in, we were flying through the schedule and our staff proved to be incredible leaders. In the midst of all the fun and, at times, chaos, it was nice to look around at all the change happening right before our eyes. Participants came out of their shells, bonded with each other and made memories as they were provided with tools and teachings that would support their growth into strong leaders. Teams were developing detailed Action Plans for how they will address a local community issue over the next year. Staff discovered a love for caffeine… and the youth leadership program that changes lives. For everyone at Oxford over the last two weeks, the experience was absolutely unmatched.

If you are wondering what we were up to, here are some highlights of the large group sessions of GTI 2014 (in no particular order). In upcoming blog posts, we’ll tell you more about workshops, team meetings and family group, as well.

  1. IMG_1071Wes Bender served as our keynote for the Day 1 General Session. Wes, the Director of Youth and International Initiatives with the Metro Atlanta YMCA, brought an incredible amount of energy and passion to GTI. Full of inspiration and motivation, Wes brought the crowd to life while also giving participants a meaningful message to take with them for the rest of the week.
  2. This was the first year we not only allowed, but encouraged, the use of mobile devices and social media at GTI. In some sessions when we were all together as a big group, everyone was given a chance to show the world that we can use social media for good. We asked participants some probing questions, like how they wanted to Make It Matter and what they’ve learned at camp, and then we asked them to tell the world. All across Twitter and Instagram, youth and adults were talking about the impact we were making. With 49 users and 66 tweets containing #GTI2014 in just 20 hours, we became a trending topic on Twitter across the United States, which held the possibility that more than 15,000 people saw our tweets.
  3. RUS_7186Several of our staff conducted a Town Hall Meeting via a Despicable Me skit. Underage drinking was described as a major issue occurring in the minions’ community, and our fabulous actors walked the audience through the Strategic Prevention Framework to determine potential causes, interventions and results. Youth Action Teams had the opportunity to understand more about the SPF PIE and how to apply it, learn how to use their Red Ribbon Week and Beyond Manuals and meet the GUIDE staff and hear about the resources we provide across the state… all with the help of Gru and his minions!
  4. One evening we had a Trivia Night hosted by ThinkFast Interactive. Participants worked with their Youth Action Team to answer questions against the clock and rival the other teams present. Each week, the winning team went home with $200 cash! With question topics ranging from movie plots to facts about GTI and audio clips of famous musicians to information on alcohol and drug use, it was a fun learning experience for all involved. It served as a great way to mix pop culture and prevention facts.
  5. RUS_6601The Golden Pencil Awards was held on the final night of camp each week. We announced Generation of Heroes, Lee County Youth Council and HOOKED Teen Club as our Youth Action Teams of the Year! In addition, Josselyn Garcia and Melinda Shealey were named our Volunteers of the Year. The fun didn’t stop there; we also gave out silly awards nominated by our staff, such as Golden Spoon Awards, the person “Most Likely to Survive a Shark Attack” and the person “Most Likely to Open a Snack Shack on the Beach.” A reception followed that included a visit by two ice cream trucks!

RUS_7749Participants also had the opportunity to participate in team building activities, as well as several fun free time activities, like swimming in Oxford’s indoor pool, arts and crafts, yoga, shopping at the TI Store and viewing Disney’s Frozen. There were also PENCILS… lots and lots of pencils. And a really cool GTI staff beach dance. Looking back, GTI 2014 was an awesome two weeks that forever impacted the lives of those who attended. All across Oxford College, every day, we were Making It Matter. Perhaps the only thing more exciting and empowering is the ripple effect that will be evident across the state of Georgia as young leaders set out to change their communities. If you came to GTI, what was your favorite part? How were you inspired? How did you Make It Matter?

Please stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts featuring other aspects of GTI! To learn more now about our program, please visit our website.

A Deeper Look into Social Norms


  • go a few miles over the speed limit?
  • never wear white after Labor Day?
  • refrain from picking your nose in public?
  • ask someone how they are doing and keep walking past them?
  • talk to someone in another stall in the bathroom?
  • eat off other peoples’ plates?
  • choose not to use all capital letters when you text because you know that is considered “shouting”?

What do all of these behaviors have in common?

They are all social norms, rules and accepted behaviors for how people should or should not act in a given group or society. We don’t even think about why we do all of these things. We have always done them. Some social norms are spoken and defined while others are unspoken and undefined. They can change with time, and they can change depending on the group, society, or culture.

Social norms drive our behaviors. We do them because we think that the majority of people are doing them, and it is the normal thing to do.

But sometimes, people may misperceive a social norm and think that a behavior occurs more often than it really does.

When it comes to alcohol and other drugs, this can be a slippery slope. For example, teens are out at a party where alcohol is being served. If they think that most of the people their age drink alcohol, then they will feel greater pressure to belong and take a drink. Why do they think that most of their peers drink, and how does that influence their behavior?

This will help explain why:









Social norms campaigns help to clarify misperceptions of certain norms by communicating the truth that most do not engage in those behaviors. Studies show that, as a result, these campaigns can actually reduce this type of risky behavior. By focusing on the positive, we can help protect our youth and keep our communities safe!

Below are some examples of social norms campaigns that have done just that!









LCBAG Social Norms






Do you have any resources on social norms campaigns that you’d like to share? If so, let us know!

Kicking off Georgia Teen Institute 2014!

IMG_0598It is hard to believe that the 26th year of Georgia Teen Institute begins today.  All of the GUIDE, Inc. and Georgia Teen Institute Staff have been working year-round to make sure this year is a success.  For many of us, it is hard to find the words to describe that feeling we get just knowing that GTI is celebrating another year. Around our office over the last few weeks, the t-shirts arrived, the manual pieces came together, copies were made, dorm rooms were assigned and workshop presenters were booked… and we can say that we are ready for another successful year of GTI at Oxford College. 

IMG_0668 (1)To some, it may be hard to believe, but planning for GTI 2014 starts the day GTI 2013 ends. It is the dedication from the countless people and community supporters that makes GTI possible.  Among the most important people are our hardworking, dedicated staff.  While most of the GTI staff are volunteers, they have been participating in interviews, orientations, trainings, conference calls and even homework assignments.  They have had two weekends of staff development before GTI to connect, refresh and get energized… and we know without a shadow of doubt that our GTI staff are ready to inspire.

Additional volunteers have been recruited to help things run smoothly while we are at GTI. They are aware of the long days ahead of them, the behind-the-scenes activities that need to happen and the not-so-glorious tasks, and we could not be more thankful for their dedication. We know that they are ready to help us make GTI 2014 memorable.

IMG_0452 (1)Something magical happens when we arrive at Oxford College: all of our planning, preparing, late night cramming and sleepless nights all come together. It is where we see all of our efforts come to life as youth in Georgia become leaders, meet new people, learn new skills and step outside of their comfort zones. GTI is where we see great things happen through the eyes and voices of our community youth. It is where we get to see youth from across the state of Georgia come together… and Make It Matter.

We expect 22 Youth Action Teams to arrive this morning to kick off Week 1 and an another 21 teams for Week 2. Our 45+ staff and volunteers are anxiously awaiting the participants’ arrival and cannot wait to make a difference this week.

We are so excited to welcome year 26 as another successful, inspirational and memorable year. If you want to check out what we’re up to this week, follow us on social media @guidegti. Let’s Make it Matter!

Exercise is Important… For Your Brain!

Click on the image to view larger.Do you have trouble remembering why you walked into a room, how to get to a friend’s house or what you went to the store to pick up? Your brain may just need a little bit of exercise! 

Check out this month’s issue of Inspired for information about how to improve your memory and prevent cognitive decline. Click on the image below or here to read this issue.