Monthly Archives: July 2014

GUIDE, Inc. Trainings: More Than Just Professional Development

Sylvia Comer of Elite Women of Excellence participates in researching a relevant topic during the GOCF-funded Project Based Learning workshop in 2013.GUIDE trains hundreds of youth and adults every year in topics ranging from leadership to substance abuse prevention to youth development. Through different grants, contracts and partnerships, GUIDE typically offers more than 75 trainings a year across the state. It is inevitable that we have some people who attend multiple trainings every year…and some people have been attending GUIDE trainings longer than most of our youth participants have been alive! We love to get feedback from our participants and find out what they liked best about our training and, more importantly, how they are using the information back in their communities. Earlier this year, we reached out to several people who have participated in multiple events offered by GUIDE to get their thoughts about the trainings they attended.

One name we regularly see on our registration list is that of Veronica R. Dowell from Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services. Veronica has been attending trainings hosted by GUIDE since she started working with youth and families in the prevention field in 1994! Over the last 20 years, Veronica has participated in a number of prevention trainings, including the PCCG-required Core Courses, Governor’s Office for Children and Families-funded workshops and several conference workshops conducted by GUIDE. Veronica says that she can’t pick a favorite training that she has attended because, “to be honest, since I have NEVER had a bad training with GUIDE, it would be hard to say if I had a favorite.” Two other regular participants are Becky Gay from Communities in Schools of Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County, Inc. and Sylvia Comer from Elite Women of Excellence. Both Becky and Sylvia have attended several trainings offered through our Governor’s Office for Children & Families grant. Sylvia says she attends these trainings “to seek better ways to engage and impact students.”

Becky Gay and her colleagues, Lisa Cox and Jill Alexander, from Communities in Schools of Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County, Inc. at the GOCF-funded Educators' Conference in 2011. These three ladies represent the hundreds that GUIDE impacts through our training events yearly. It is always our hope that we are sharing tools and resources that make a positive difference for the participants who attend. When asked how the trainings she attended had changed her work and program, Becky shared, “By attending GUIDE trainings, you learn while you are putting yourself in the place of the student so you see how it feels to be the student, while also seeing how the instructors are making the lesson happen. GUIDE trainings also always encourage youth voice and we have been able to get valuable feedback and input from our students that, in turn, has strengthened our programs.” Sylvia feels similarly and said, “The information given can be used immediately, and since you are actively participating in the training, you feel comfortable with the tools and ideas learned.”

We love to hear when programs have taken information, tools or resources and used them back in their communities. After attending a workshop on best practices in youth development, Veronica received a kit of supplies to conduct several of the activities used. She said, “I used the egg activity when was in charge of doing a team building activity with my co-workers. It was awesome!” Becky loves our Caboodle and Commonality Cards. She said, “Our favorite tools that we have received from GUIDE training are those cards. We have all used them in work-related AND personal settings!”

Veronica R. Dowell of Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services works with her team to transport 12 plastic eggs across the room using only the tools provided during the "Radioactive Eggs" activity at the Best Practices in Youth Development training in 2012. By conducting these trainings, we help participants build the knowledge and practice the skills they need to create highly effective programs for youth and adults. For example, participants like Veronica who have attended our prevention courses are better equipped to provide research-based programming, ensure that their programs are culturally relevant and operate ethically. Others, like Becky and Sylvia, who attend our youth development trainings, walk away with ideas on how to infuse asset-building into their existing programs, discover tools for providing high-quality in-house staff development and understand the value of incorporating youth voice in all aspects of their work.

If you’ve ever attended a GUIDE training, what did you walk away with? We’d love to hear your favorite parts, the tools you’re using and how your organization has benefited from your attendance! 

GUIDE 2013-2014 Youth Advisory Board: Where They’re Headed

IMG_4921GUIDE is proud to recognize ten seniors from our Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and their accomplishments. The YAB is comprised of youth from across Gwinnett County that commit to making a difference in their community. YAB members develop and practice key leadership skills such as public speaking, group management, networking, decision-making, planning, organization, and time management. Each of our YAB members has shown dedication to not only GUIDE, but also to their schools and communities. Because of their impressive leadership skills, every YAB member was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities such as Student Government Association, National Honor Society, Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, etc. Several YAB members also held part time jobs at businesses such as restaurants and insurance companies.

Each senior had an impressive resume, and universities across the country reached out to them. Throughout the fall and spring, they were busy applying for numerous scholarships and universities. GUIDE is honored to announce that all ten of our seniors were accepted to the university or college of their choice and several were selected for outstanding scholarships!

IMG_4862We are extremely proud of two YAB members for receiving the prestigious honor of being selected as 2014 Gates Millennium Scholars. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program selects 1,000 talented students each year to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice. This scholarship will provide a full scholarship to the recipient for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Josselyn Garcia, YAB President, and Micheline Amisi, YAB Vice-President, were both selected as Gates Scholars. Josselyn, a future Eagle, will be attending Emory University in Atlanta this fall. A soon-to-be Tar Heel, Micheline will be attending The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Moving to Rhode Island, Odemi Pessu will be attending Brown University, becoming a Brown Bear, with a full academic scholarship. Akua Obeng-Akrofi, YAB Secretary, received a track scholarship and will be moving to New York City and attending Columbia University as a Lion. Maya Carter will become a Pirate and attend Hampton University in Virginia on an academic scholarship.

Several YAB members decided to stay in Georgia to continue their education. A future Bulldog, Joy Choi will be attending the University of Georgia in Athens. Rachel Topper will be attending Georgia College in Milledgeville where she will become a Bobcat. Marilyn Carias, Angela Luu and Vincent Morales are all soon to be Panthers at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

IMG_4422GUIDE appreciates the participation and service from each senior throughout their time on YAB. Each individual helped make a difference to youth and adults in Gwinnett County. Every YAB member has grown in their leadership potential through their YAB experience, and now they are equipped to share those skills at universities across the country. As the new school year quickly approaches, we wish all of these new college freshmen good luck and look forward to hearing about their college successes and how they go on to change the world.

GTI 2014: Workshops

This is our third and last blog installment recapping Georgia Teen Institute 2014. Our first two posts covered overall group session highlights and Team Meetings and Family Groups, two elements of GTI that are often favorites! We hope you enjoy this post just as much, as we describe the inspiring workshop opportunities participants were provided and how they enriched the GTI experience!

Wes Bender: "Fighting Low Expectations with Emotional Intelligence"Year after year, we are fortunate to have workshop presenters at Georgia Teen Institute who are truly invested in the lives of others. This year proved no different. Presenters came from all over the state in order to Make It Matter to participants. Presenters inspired, motivated and encouraged workshop goers to make a difference, not only in their communities, but in the world at large.

All participants, both youth and adults, were able to choose from a variety of workshops offered several times throughout the week. Workshops covered an array of topics such as effective peer-focused strategies, including alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention as well as the prevention of teen dating violence; becoming culturally competent leaders; taking advantage of youth voice in order to improve existing programming; learning ways to become successful both now and in the future; understanding communication styles; and the art of writing an effective PSA.

Mahuli Jakubek & Molly Vance: "Make Your Voice Count"Substance abuse prevention workshops were led by phenomenal presenters such as Wes Bender from the YMCA, John Lee McNair and Felicia Nepp from the Catoosa Prevention Initiative, Dana Bryan and our very own GUIDE, Inc. staff Mahuli Jakubek and Molly Vance. Wes showed participants that it’s important to take a deeper look into emotional intelligence in order to set higher expectations for self and the generations to follow. These higher expectations, in turn, help youth understand their worth and the importance of remaining healthy by living an alcohol, tobacco and other drug free lifestyle. Art is also a wonderful way to express the importance of prevention. John Lee McNair & Felicia Nepp: "Prevention Library Project"John Lee and Felicia led participants in a creative project, which illuminated powerful prevention messages. Adult participants had the privilege of learning from John Lee, who discussed ways to build parental awareness of prescription drug abuse and misuse. Mahuli and Molly led a fun, interactive workshop that illustrated how social norms and norming play an important role in crushing the myths about underage drinking prevention. “Lauren’s Story,” a workshop demonstrating the negative effects of substance abuse, was led by Dana who engaged youth as they listened to her personal story of loss. A teen dating violence workshop, which included another type of prevention for participants to choose from, was led by Christina Williams and Shoneika Jefferson from SafeHomes of Augusta.

Anthony Stover: "Empowering Leaders!"Participants also learned skills to become culturally competent, successful and purpose-driven leaders in their communities. Exploration of experiences, background and prejudices led the conversation in Michael Davis’ workshop about culturally competency. VOX Teen Communications, a program dedicated to youth voice in programming, illustrated the importance of listening to the voices of the youth we serve. Ron Gardner led youth through an engaging workshop that helped them identify the importance of academics, behavior and character in order to achieve success. Participants were encouraged to seek out their purpose in G. Jackson’s workshop, while also exploring key elements of leadership in Anthony Stover’s workshop on empowerment. Crystal Culver motivated youth in her workshops to seek their full potential in order to Make It Matter, not only at GTI, but back at home, too.

Crystal Williams: "CRUSH YOUR BOX: Communicating Your Leadership Style"Adult Advisors had the option to attend specialized sessions including Crystal Williams’ workshop, which showcased various youth communication practices and behaviors. This knowledge helped adults to identify ways to engage the youth they serve in a more meaningful way. Atlanta radio host, Melissa Carter, offered another workshop dedicated to the skill of PSA writing. Participants learned how to craft messages in order to raise awareness in their communities. Adult participants had the privilege of learning from John Bringuel with The Council on Alcohol and Drugs, who discussed ways to build parental awareness of prescription drug abuse and misuse.

We are incredibly thankful to all of our presenters for truly Making It Matter at GTI 2014! It’s in large part because of these wonderful people that Georgia Teen Institute is able to provide participants from all over the state of Georgia the skills and resources needed to make a difference in their communities.

Do you want to know even more about Georgia Teen Institute and how you can get involved? Please visit our website and reach out to us today for any questions or suggstions!

GTI 2014: Team Meetings & Family Groups

We don’t know about you, but we are still super energized from Georgia Teen Institute 2014! The summer program may be over, yet it’s still all many of us can think about. In a recent blog post, we shared with you some highlights of the week from our large group sessions. Believe it or not, we still have so much more to tell. Read below for some insight into two major components of GTI: Team Meetings and Family Groups.

Team Meetings

IMG_2972The reason Youth Action Teams have attended Georgia Teen Institute for the past 26 years is because they want to make a difference in their communities. Each team met daily during the program to participate in team building, assessing community needs and strengths and developing an Action Plan for the upcoming year. The Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) was utilized for each team to plan at least one project from start to finish that they will implement when they return to their communities. In addition, they reviewed data from the Georgia Department of Education’s Georgia Student Health Survey II and the Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS Count Data to get to know the issues that prevail in their communities. Working with their Adult Advisors and GTI Youth or College Age Staff, all 43 teams successfully completed a plan of action in response to a local issue the group decided should be addressed. Thirty teams who are funded by DBHDD addressed underage drinking as their problem and planned prevention projects related to the issue. Because GTI is a youth leadership program centered on prevention, several other teams identified underage drinking as the issue they wanted to address with their project, as well.

IMG_2965In addition to all the hard work they put into their team Action Plans, they participated in team building activities to help the team learn more about their strengths, areas for improvement and how they can successfully work together at GTI and when they return home. This year, teams completed several beach-themed activities, such as creating their own Beach House and Blimp to advertise their project. Teams also designed a treasure map, played Beach Towel Flip and went on a beach trip with the Wright family.

Each team who attended GTI successfully submitted an Action Plan. If you’re wondering what an Action Plan would include and what communities across the state of Georgia will see in the coming year, here are a few highlights from some of our teams:

  • BullochBulloch County Alcohol and Drug Council DEFY YAT identified underage drinking as a problem in their community. The team planned a DEFY YAT Drug Free Kickback in the four county middle schools to provide information on underage drinking prevention with ways to decrease negative peer pressure.
  • RUS_6027 (1)Cobb Alcohol Taskforce YAT stated their problem was a lack of awareness of the dangers of underage drinking. With the goal of raising awareness of adult influence on teens, the team planned a 5K Color Run. The Color Run will increase the YAT’s interaction with community youth and adults and educate them on substance abuse statistics.
  • Spalding Co.Spalding County Youth Action Council identified underage drinking as an issue and planned to implement the “Simply Sober, Simply Me” Campaign to help prevent and reduce underage drinking by sharing information and leveraging resources. To change perceptions and behaviors of the citizens of Spalding County, the team created “The Breakout Conference: Creating a New Cool.” They also planned a 70’s party to reinforce the 70/30 statistic. Using the data from the needs assessment and positive social norms, the party will show that 70% of teens do not drink alcohol.
  • WaltonA new team to GTI, the Walton County Youth Advocacy Board, identified two problems they would like to address: underage drinking and lack of understanding of Cultural Competency. Their goal is to redefine Cultural Competency in Walton County and promote positive messages around youth in all aspects, including the importance of remaining alcohol and drug free was the goal statement they wrote. Using the Open Minded Movement, the team planned a Cotton Café Monologue Event and the Haunted House of Addictions.
  • ParkviewParkview High School SAVE/SADD, a team who has attended GTI for numerous years, decided to take a new approach to the problem of underage drinking this year. The team wanted to increase visibility of alcohol free fun, parties and events throughout the year, while also communicating the dangers of underage drinking. Using information from their needs assessment, the team recognized that after parties with alcohol following sporting events is an issue in their community. To reduce this problem, the team planned the #DrugFreeTurnUp project. Throughout the school year, the team will attend a variety of school sporting events and distribute giveaways during the games to spread an alcohol free message to students and adults.

Now the real fun begins. Over the next year, we get to watch all of our awesome Youth Action Teams implement their projects and change their communities and the world. We can’t wait to see how they go! Thank you to all of our teams for your hard work throughout the week and your dedication to Make It Matter back in your communities! 

Family Groups

Family Groups are often the highlight for participants year after year, and it’s no surprise why. Family Groups are comprised of youth from across the state to engage in discussion, reflection, games and activities. Each session was designed to build skills, friendships and self-esteem while encouraging networking among youth from diverse backgrounds. Family Groups met daily to get to know each other, have fun and experienced how a group of strangers can become like family by learning to trust and care for each other in a matter of a few short days.

IMG_2973A long-time tradition at GTI is having Secret Pals in your Family Group, and this year they were another huge hit. On Day 1, participants picked their Secret Pal and had the responsibility of not only keeping themselves a secret, but also placing something on the Warm Fuzzy Board each day. This year, the board was filled with all kids of goodies, including hand written notes, items purchased from the GTI store, stickers, snacks and crafts made during Arts and Crafts. Each day, participants eagerly checked the board looking for something from their Secret Pal.

Sticking with the beach theme, several of our Family Group activities continued our beach journey. Family Groups created wind chimes, which were pieces of art that can only make music when all of the pieces work together. The wind chime also showed how diverse the Family Group was because no two people had the exact same seashell. Each participant was able to keep a seashell of their own to reflect on the beauty, uniqueness and importance of each person who came to the GTI beach. Any trip to the beach would not be complete without a scrapbook full of memories, and this journey was no different. Everyone was able to complete their GTI Scrapbook to remember their experience at camp.


IMG_2977Family Groups also completed several team building activities to encourage youth to practice their leadership skills with people they were not familiar with. This year that included activities such as Anti Gravity Hoop, Disaster Control and Telephone Charades. Each Family Group was divided in half and the teams had to race in order to lower their hula hoop to the ground first during Anti Gravity Hoop. As a way to enhance “Personal Power” (when a young person feels he or she has control over things that happen to them), Family Groups worked in small groups to decide what three items they would have in their flood preparedness kit, during the Disaster Control activity. Telephone Charades was also a hit, where groups had to compete to get their “message” down the telephone line, using only their finest acting skills. Each Family Group had the opportunity to bond, laugh and develop leadership skills with youth from other teams across Georgia.

IMG_2976Adult Advisors participated in a Family Group of their own, having just as much fun as the youth. Each Adult Family Group starts out with Door Prizes, and they were required to show off their best Door Prize Dance. This year, the Adults participated in activities such as Beach Ball Thumb Ball, Animated Skit, Spoonful of Questions and many more. Adult Advisors had the opportunity to network with other professionals throughout the state, which is one of the many benefits of attending GTI. Not only are Advisors sharing project ideas, but also resources and connections they have to help make Georgia a better place. Adult Advisors also participate in Secret Pals and this year they really stepped it up in the gift giving. Several adults received Secret Pal prize packs filled with treats and items to share with their team members. The incredible Adult Advisors who are a part of our statewide initiative also participated in a networking meeting. During the meeting, event reports, contracts and other logistical items were discussed. Each Adult Advisor served as positive adult role models to our youth, and this year we had the opportunity to thank them during each Family Group meeting with small prizes like notebooks, pens, and the limited edition GTI visor. 

We truly could not have asked for better Team Meetings and Family Groups this year. We are excited to see all of these incredible projects implemented and how our Youth Action Teams use the skills they built and tools received at GTI to grow and strengthen their communities over the next year. Want to know even more about what we did at GTI 2014? Please stay tuned for our next blog post, which will cover the workshop opportunities we offered participants.