Category Archives: Georgia Teen Institute

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.

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.

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!

Georgia Teen Institute 2014: Raising $14K in 2014!

For the 26th year in a row, GUIDE, Inc. is in the process of planning for the Georgia Teen Institute summer leadership program. The Georgia Teen Institute (GTI) is an inspiring, motivational and meaningful leadership training program for middle and high school students with a focus on teaching youth-adult teams how to use the Strategic Prevention Framework. Teams of youth from all over the state of Georgia come and learn how to plan and implement projects in their home communities related to alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention, community engagement and other pertinent issues. GTI is a dynamic, fun and innovative way for middle and high school students and adult advisors to learn new skills, meet new people and become empowered to create change in their communities and schools.

GTI_14in14_SM_403x403_border_WEBGTI is run by GUIDE, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit and, in 2014, will be staffed by 45 high school and college age youth and more than 50 volunteers. The cost for one of the 45 staff – who have already completed a three day training, will attend another three day training and then staff eight days of GTI – is approximately $650. When we shared this cost with our high school and college staff in March, they decided to set a really ambitious fundraising goal to help cover their costs. This group, in addition to studying their facilitator’s guides, preparing warm fuzzies and doing an assortment of other things to prepare to serve as staff members, decided to set their 2014 staff fundraising goal at $14,135!

We need your help to make sure that this incredible goal can be met. Every single bit helps and we hope that little by little our 2014 staff will inch toward their goal. We can assure you that 100% of your donation goes to support the work that these youth and young adults will do this summer. The funds we raise through this campaign go to pay for meals during our staff trainings that can’t be covered by our grant funding, our onsite expenses for staying at Oxford College for two weeks and so much more.

SDW1 2014 078Donating is REALLY easy — simply CLICK RIGHT HERE to securely donate online. It will give you the option to do a one-time donation or have the amount automatically deducted monthly. Simply designate “GTI” when asked, and if you know a specific staff member for whom you want to donate, add their name, too. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law and are GREATLY appreciated. If you’d rather write a check, mail it to GUIDE, Inc., PO Box 1922, Lawrenceville, GA 30046, Attn. GTI. 

Your support of the work that GUIDE and the Georgia Teen Institutes are doing this summer really does make a difference. THANK YOU! 

Join Us at Georgia Teen Institute 2014!

Team Registration is Open!

We would love to see Youth Action Teams from across the state of Georgia join us at Oxford College this summer as we proudly celebrate our 26th year! Come help us Make it Matter in 2014.

Georgia Teen Institute (GTI) is an inspiring, motivational and meaningful leadership training program for middle and high school students with a focus on teaching youth-adult teams how to use the Strategic Prevention Framework to plan and implement projects in their home communities related to alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention, community engagement and other pertinent issues. GTI is a dynamic, fun and innovative way for middle and high school students and adult advisors to learn new skills, meet new people and become empowered to create change in their communities and schools.



Your choice!

Week 1: June 9-12 or Week 2: June 17-20


Oxford College

100 Hamill Street

Oxford, GA 30054


Youth leaders and their adult advisors who want to make a difference in their home communities! A team is generally comprised of at least four youth and must have at least one adult as a team member. If a team is co-ed, you must have a male and a female adult attend for supervision purposes. Youth members must be enrolled in grades 7-12 for the 2014 – 2015 school year. Neither youth nor adults should be currently experiencing a substance abuse or significant mental health problem.


Early Bird Rate for those registered by April 11 at  5 pm: $385 per participant, youth or adult.*  

Regular Rate for those registered after April 11 at 5 pm: $450 per participant, youth or adult*

*Adults may request a single room at the rate of $50 per room.


For more information you can click here and it will provide more details, the registration packet and requirements associated with attending Georgia Teen Institute 2014. Space is limited, so make sure you get your registration packet in as soon as possible!

We cannot wait to see you at #GeorgiaTI2014 and help us Make it Matter!