Category Archives: GUIDE

The End of an Era: GUIDE Says Goodbye to Ari Russell

Today marks the end of an era in Gwinnett County, in Georgia and in the field of prevention. One of the pioneers of the prevention field and biggest difference-makers in our community, Ari Russell, retires today after 28 years and 3 months of service as the Executive Director of GUIDE.

RUS_9768GUIDE was formed as a joint effort between the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and the Gwinnett County Board of Education. They wanted to have a comprehensive, coordinated and proactive approach to reducing and preventing substance use and abuse. A steering committee of prominent Gwinnett leaders developed a preliminary plan and secured funding to hire an Executive Director. Ari Russell was hired in July of 1986 and has been at the helm of this agency ever since.

Under Ari’s leadership GUIDE has had many significant accomplishments, including:

  • Conducting a prevention needs assessment in 1986 that lead to recommendations to the Gwinnett County Board of Education that were subsequently adopted; including the adoption of K-12 drug prevention curriculum, providing staff development about prevention issues, conducting drug use surveys on a regular basis, and adopting a no-smoking policy that included faculty and staff;
  • Working with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department to develop the ADVANCE program, a substance abuse and violence prevention curriculum that was conducted by deputies in all fifth grade classes in Gwinnett;
  • Overseeing all state-funded prevention services in Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton Counties for five years, helping to build the infrastructure in Rockdale and Newton Counties until the Family Connection Collaboratives were able to take on the responsibilities;
  • Partnering with Public Health to secure a CDC tobacco prevention grant that led to the formation of Smoke Free Gwinnett and, eventually, the adoption of clean indoor air ordinances in three Gwinnett cities, followed by the County;
  • Establishing the Gwinnett Alliance With Youth that formed Community Cluster Care Teams in every school cluster, increased public awareness about risk and protective factors and developmental assets and instituted the “Champions” project;
  • Originating the Georgia Teen Institute in 1989. This program has operated annually since then with over 12,000 youth having participated in the program;
  • Developing Youth Volunteer Centers in 1998. The first was located at Collins Hill High School, and supported by funding from United Way. The initiative evolved into the Youth Leadership & Action program and the 3-Year Youth Action Team Empowerment Model. Since 1998, over fifty Youth Action Teams have been established, providing youth leadership and service opportunities for thousands of middle and high school students in Gwinnett County.
  • Establishing the GUIDE Youth Advisory Board and College Advisory Board.

RUS_9723 (1)Ari was one of the founders of the National Association of Prevention Professionals and Advocates, a membership organization that advocated on a national level for professionalism in the field and adoption of research-based strategies and of the Prevention Credentialing Consortium of Georgia, bringing a professional certification to prevention specialists in Georgia. In 2007, Ari received the first Ray Avant Excellence in Prevention Award from the Georgia Office of Prevention Services and Programs for her contributions to the field, and in 2011 she was the Georgia nominee for IC/RC Prevention Professional of the Year. More recently, Ari was honored with the Extraordinary Contribution to Prevention Award from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Barbara King Community Hero Award from the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.

The number of lives impacted through the work GUIDE has accomplished in the last 28 years are immeasurable, and Ari has been the catalyst for the change that has occurred in Gwinnett and across Georgia. Never one to lead from behind her desk, Ari has not only been the brains and creativity behind many innovative, cutting-edge and meaningful programs and projects, she was often the one implementing the programs, too. Over the years, Ari’s job – in addition to the day-to-day work of being an Executive Director – has included leading Arts and Crafts at the Georgia Teen Institute, teaching hundreds of workshops (and making the thousands of copies that go with them) and feeding hundreds of youth and adults at various training events and Teen Institutes. A mentor, friend and role model for other GUIDE Staff and many others across the state, Ari’s leadership has influenced many prevention professionals and partners and is felt throughout our field and our state. 


Earlier this week, as we closed our final staff meeting together, we said to Ari, “This is all because of you.” Though she’s always collaborated, found partners and sought funding to see visions become realities and had a team of colleagues at her side, the state of prevention in Gwinnett wouldn’t be where it is without Ari. Though she’s been fortunate enough to work with incredible leaders across the state, region and country,  prevention in Georgia would look very different if it had not had Ari. Though there are countless partners in the work GUIDE does that makes us successful every day, the work GUIDE has accomplished wouldn’t be the same without Ari.

Today is the end of an era. It won’t be easy for many of us. Change of this magnitude is frightening, and we know that no one can fill Ari’s big shoes. Ari is a legend, a pioneer, a visionary, a change maker. Her influence will be felt far and wide for many years to come. And Ari can leave knowing that her life, her work and her leadership made a difference.

If you would like to join us as we celebrate Ari and our next Executive Director, Jessica Andrews-Wilson, please join us on November 14 for our “Pass the Torch” celebration. For details on this event and to RSVP, click here

Thank you, Ari, for 28 years of service to Gwinnett County, Georgia and the prevention field. You will be missed!


A Look Back at GUIDE’s 2013

GUIDE, Inc. 2013 Summary (3)

This past year was busy, challenging and incredibly rewarding for the GUIDE Staff as we took on new projects, moved forward with strategic planning and expanded our reach throughout the state. Our staff continued to be recognized for their professionalism and talents, which explains why we’re often in high demand. Every one of our initiatives made a difference in some way, and we are pleased to share our 2013 accomplishments with you.


Through our Alcohol Prevention Project (APP) funded by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, we continued to work through the Strategic Prevention Framework on our goal to reduce access to alcohol and binge drinking by 9 to 20 year-olds. Our work included the development of a Capacity Building Plan addressing community readiness and sustainability, a Strategic Plan identifying evidence-based strategies and activities to address local issues and an Implementation plan that outlines action steps and timelines. We ended the year with attention focused on the Evaluation Plan that addresses both process and outcomes.

GUIDE’s strategies in Gwinnett included reducing commercial access to alcohol through compliance checks, warning messages and increased penalties and reducing social access by raising awareness about consequences for providing alcohol to minors and improving social host liability laws or ordinances. A compliance check crackdown in the City of Lilburn at the end of the year resulted in several package stores and a restaurant receiving severe sanctions for selling to minors and garnered quite a bit of press attention.

Our public awareness campaigns continued throughout 2013. The biggest one, our Save Brains campaign, expanded to include new print materials, recurring Public Service Announcements on the Gwinnett County cable channel and at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Lawrenceville and utilization of social media platforms to spread the messages. The campaign’s display also made several stops around the state, including at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center and the Georgia School of Addiction Studies. Overall, our Save Brains messages reached over 1 million people in Gwinnett and beyond in 2013!

Additionally, we continued to collaborate with the local Drug Free Communities (DFC) coalition, the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, by writing grants, providing training and taking the lead on several prevention strategies. In 2013, the Coalition was awarded the DFC grant for five more years. The focus is on underage drinking, marijuana and prescription drugs. GUIDE has been involved in these strategies through, among other things, our APP work, the Youth Advisory Board’s creation of two PSAs being shown in several venues and the promotion of the Prescription Drug Take Back program. As a part of our DFC work, GUIDE also publishes Inspired to Make Healthy Choices, a monthly newsletter about various health and wellness issues that is viewed by more than 100,000 individuals and 30,000 households every month.

Youth Leadership and Engagement

GUIDE’s work with youth leaders in Gwinnett and across the state continues to be some of the most successful and rewarding work that we are able to do. In 2013, our biggest and longest running program celebrated a huge anniversary and meeting a huge fundraising goal. Since 1989, Georgia Teen Institute has reached thousands of youth and adults from around the state. The summer of 2013 marked our 25th Anniversary of this popular program and to honor those years, our Youth and Young Adult Staff set a fundraising goal of $25,000. Though it seemed intimidating at first, we were able to, along with our 45 volunteer staff members, raise more than $28,000 by the end of the year, making this our largest fundraising campaign to date! The funds raised supported the 350 youth and adults who attended one of the two sessions of GTI 2013. These members of 43 youth action teams from across Georgia planned and implemented 85 prevention projects and 25 community service projects that involved over 50,000 youth and reached audiences of over 245,000 around Georgia and across the United States.

One of those Youth Action Teams is GUIDE’s very own Youth Advisory Board (YAB), who had a busy and successful 2013. In addition to the PSAs on underage drinking and marijuana that they created, our YAB members’ opinions and ideas were sought by  HLN’s Raising America, CNN and GenRx. The GenRx initiative used the YAB as a focus group about prescription drug use and several YAB members are featured on their website. For Red Ribbon Week, the YAB members conducted various campaigns at their own schools and participated in GUIDE’s “Be Red” campaign, reaching more than 7,500 students with messages regarding the effects of underage drinking. One of our YAB members, Josselyn Garcia, was selected as one of nine youth for MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group.

Training and Capacity Building

GUIDE has long been the recognized leader in professional development and youth leadership training in Georgia, and 2013 was no exception.

We started 2013 with the largest adult-focused event GUIDE has ever conducted, the Georgia Afterschool and Youth Development Conference. This event, funded by the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Human Services, took place in Athens and reached over 700 afterschool and youth development professionals in attendance for the three day event.

Throughout the remainder of the year, we were awarded contracts for training workshops from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, the Georgia Department of Human Services and several other small non-profits, prevention agencies and others interested in our youth development and prevention work. With these partnerships, we were able to offer 52 professional development training events that reached over 1825 adults. Twenty of our 2013 events were prevention focused and, as the only provider to conduct the Core Courses required to apply for prevention credentials in Georgia, GUIDE played a big role in preparing the 25+ prevention professionals who recently received their credentials. Our twelve youth leadership training events included a leadership series with the Lilburn Middle School Peer Leaders and, in total, reached approximately 250 youth.

In the last quarter of 2013, GUIDE received contracts to plan the 2nd Annual Afterschool and Youth Development Conference scheduled for October 2014 and to plan the first Teens R 4 Me Conference for Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children Services workers, volunteers and teens in foster care scheduled for March 2014.

These highlights of our work in 2013 are merely the tip of the iceberg of projects, campaigns and events that GUIDE staff implemented and maintained this year. We couldn’t have celebrated the amazing success of 2013 without our dedicated board members, volunteers, supporters and friends and look forward to what 2014 holds!

Georgia Gives Day 2013 was a Huge Success!

On November 13, the GUIDE, Inc. and Georgia Teen Institute Facebook and Twitter pages were blanketed in posts encouraging supporters to participate in the state’s largest fundraising effort, Georgia Gives Day.

“Click if you care” messages and asks for donations on our GA Gives Day website had been circulating for weeks.  Volunteers, staff members and community supporters created personal Friendraiser pages to help GUIDE and Georgia Teen Institute get the word out about our wonderful programs that need continued support into the 2014 year.

The effort did not go unrecognized, and in less than 24 hours, we were able to raise $12,555!  Overall, GA Gives Day was able to raise a whopping $1,478,849 (and still climbing) for nonprofits across the state of Georgia, breaking several records from the inaugural year.

Words cannot express the gratitude and amazement experienced on November 13.  Thank you just doesn’t seem sufficient, but we are truly empowered, encouraged and forever grateful to everyone that made GA Gives Day so successful.  Donations raised through GA Gives Day will be used to support Georgia Teen Institute, the GUIDE Youth Advisory Board, GUIDE’s prevention efforts and more! Don’t forget – the giving can continue!  You can still visit our GA Gives Day website today and make a donation!