Category Archives: Training

Team Building Activity: Straw Challenge

Straw Challenge 

IMG_1023This activity is a super simple and inexpensive way to get your group working as a cohesive team!

Time Needed: 10-15 minutes

Group Size: Any

Materials: Straws for each person in the group (ones that are NOT bendy work best)


RUS_7117 (1)Give each person a straw, have them form a circle, and then hold their straw against the pointer finger of their right hand.

Have them cross their left arm across their right arm and press the tip of their pointer finger on their left hand against the end of their neighbor on the rights’ straw. This should allow the tip of each of their pointers to be in contact with a straw. No other part of any person’s hand, other than their pointer fingers, may touch the straws from this point on.

Now have the group make a series of movements to see how few times they will drop the straws. Have the group move in a circle to their left until they are back in their original position again. Afterward, have the group move 5-15 feet (depending on how much space you have) in a direction from where they are standing, and then return to their original location.

RUS_7114If at any point someone drops a straw, the entire group must stop and allow the person who dropped the straw time to pick it up and get into position again.

There is no elimination for dropping a straw. 

Debrief Questions:

  • How did your neighbor’s movement affect yours?
  • Were you affected by movement across the circle?
  • In our group how do we affect each other?
  • What can each of us do to think about how our activities affect others, especially as leaders?

We encourage you to complete this activity with the youth you serve, staff you work with, or both! If you do, please make sure to let us know how it goes!


Georgia School of Addiction Studies: A Recap of Our Week in Savannah

IMG_2795The 8th Annual Georgia School of Addiction Studies (GSAS) was held August 25-29, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency in Savannah. The theme, “Unleashing the Power: Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery” speaks to the power we each have in our field to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.  This annual conference brings together professionals in the prevention, treatment and recovery fields and provides GUIDE  staff the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet newcomers in the prevention field while attending sessions designed to share the most recent research and most impactful strategies for creating change in our communities. For the 8th consecutive year, GUIDE staff members participated in the conference in a number of ways and were grateful for the opportunity to attend.

Ari Russell serves on the GSAS Board of Directors as a representative from the Prevention Credentialing Consortium of Georgia (PCCG). She is an active member and arrived in Savannah early to assemble participant packets, set up registration tables and prepare for the conference. Ari was also part of the contingent of GUIDE workshops offered during the conference. Ari facilitated both the 6 hour Ethics in the Prevention Field and the 3 hour Ethics for Recertification courses as well as co-facilitated a workshop on writing a Drug Free Communities grant with Ellen Gerstein of the Gwinnett Coalition.

GUIDE082014_021In addition to the three workshops Ari led, GUIDE’s Associate Director Jessica Andrews-Wilson taught four workshops over the course of the five day conference. Jessica facilitated two 3 hour workshops, Youth Voice and Choice in Prevention Programming and One Campaign, Many Messages: How to Turn Your Prevention Campaign into Social Media Content, and two 6 hour workshops for prevention professionals seeking PCCG credits, Cultural Competency and Communication Skills. All of the workshops GUIDE offered were met with praise for their engagement, meaningful activities and high-quality content.

IMG_2911While Ari and Jessica were busy teaching, other GUIDE staff including Mahuli Jakubek, Molly Vance and Sarah Stokes attended multiple sessions, learning and gathering information to bring back to influence the work we are engaged in around Gwinnett County. These staff members attended workshops by renowned speakers including Mike Nerney and Merrill Norton and learned more about the effectiveness of underage drinking laws, the impact of underage drinking on adolescent development, latest research regarding marijuana and heroin and how to get more involved in prescription drug abuse prevention. As always, the information shared at GSAS will benefit not only our staff, but our entire community as we share the new knowledge we gained.

photo (8)Georgia Teen Institute (GTI) had a special part of GSAS with an exhibit to promote our summer conference, recruit new youth action teams and volunteers and sell our Caboodle and Commonality Cards. Our staff took turns staffing the exhibit and talking with conference participants about opportunities to engage with us through GTI. We are always excited to share our passion for GTI with others – and were thrilled that several participants bought some cards to use within their own programs!

GUIDE082014_077Thursday was an important day during the conference. Celebrated as “Prevention Day” each year, Thursday features the Prevention Awards Luncheon where several valuable individuals are recognized each year. 2014 marked the first time a youth award was given, and we are proud to announce that the recipient of the first annual Youth Ambassador Award was our very own Josselyn Garcia! Recognized for her dedication to prevention and her diligent and meaningful work in her high school and across Gwinnett County, Josselyn was presented the award in front of the crowd of prevention professionals, beaming GUIDE staff members and her parents. The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) also honored Ari with an award for her Extraordinary Contribution to Prevention to celebrate her 28 years of leading GUIDE and the field of prevention in Georgia. Jessica was invited to share highlights of Ari’s work and our staff were thrilled that we pulled off the surprise of this award! On Thursday evening, Ari and Jessica conducted business as they participated in the PCCG Meeting and then conducted one of three interviews for people applying to receive credentials as Certified Preventionists. One of the other interviewees was our newest Program Specialist, Molly Vance. When Molly receives her credentials later this month, GUIDE will again be one of only a couple of agencies where all program staff  are credentialed!

As always, we left Savannah thankful for a week of connecting, learning and growing and renewed in our passion for prevention and proud of our contributions to the conference and the recognition our team received. We are already looking forward to the 2015 conference!

Team Building Activity: Balloon Tower

Balloon Tower

RUS_2777Are you looking for a fun and engaging team building activity to do with your group? Look no further than Balloon Tower! We love to do this activity to encourage teamwork and discuss conquering challenges. We would love to hear how you use it, too!

Objective: Use a bag of balloons and roll of masking tape to build the tallest freestanding tower possible in the time allotted.

Time Needed:  20-30 minutes

Group Size:  Any, split into teams of 4-6 people

Materials (per team):

  • 1 bag of balloons
  • 1 roll of masking tape

RUS_2797Directions:  If your group is larger than 6, split into smaller teams.  Give each team a bag of balloons and a roll of tape.  Challenge the teams to make the tallest freestanding tower they can using only the balloons and tape. 

Allow four minutes of brainstorming and planning. When you say “Go!” the tower building can begin. 

Let the teams build for 10 minutes, giving time announcements at five minutes, two minutes and one minute remaining. At the end, whichever team has the tallest freestanding tower is the winner. 

Congratulate all teams for creating such tall towers.


You can make it more difficult by allowing the teams to brainstorm and plan for four minutes and then not allowing them to talk while they are building.


Debrief Questions:

  1. What worked for your group? What didn’t? How did you know?
  2. What was challenging? How did you deal with those challenges?
  3. How do you feel about your finished tower?
  4. How is this activity like working on your project with your team?

Custom + Quality = GUIDE Training Events

With more than 25 years of experience coordinating, planning and implementing training across the state, GUIDE is your source for a custom, quality event! GUIDE specializes in substance abuse prevention, youth development and leadership for both youth and adults.

IMG_3752No matter your group – youth or adults, large or small, non-profit or corporate – we are willing to work with you to plan and implement a custom event in your community… or anywhere you desire! Put our experience to work for your school, community or company by contacting us to be a part of planning a new, or improving on a pre-existing, program or conference.  Whether it is planning and taking care of all the small details, or simply providing a professional workshop session, GUIDE staff will work to fit your goals and needs, whatever they may be.  We will also make it a priority to work with the budget available to you.

August is always a busy month of custom training events for GUIDE with the start of programming and the new school year. We’ve already had several trainings throughout the state this month and still have more to come before September.

IMG_2605On August 11, GUIDE staff conducted a teen summit with 60 students at the Douglas County Performance Learning Center. At the beginning of the summit, participants were greeted with door prizes and energizers to get them ready for the day. Afterward, they took part in engaging, hands-on workshops related to leadership and goal setting. Through partner and group discussion, creative projects, and the use of GUIDE’s Caboodle Cards, these workshops provided resources and tools necessary to be successful during the school year and beyond. The day ended with a large group session of icebreakers and energizers. During this time, participants had the opportunity to learn about each other and how to work better as a group.

IMG_2774Later that week, GUIDE staff facilitated three workshops with 65 students at the Turner County Freshmen Orientation. Each year, Turner County Freshmen have the opportunity to see and learn about their school prior to the start of the year, and we were grateful to be a part of this fantastic event! The workshops conducted included themes of respect, staying engaged while in school, and time-management. Although the workshops were only 30 minutes in length, the GUIDE facilitators did an exceptional job leading meaningful conversation, engaging participants in activities, and sharing expertise about what to expect in high school.

This month, GUIDE also partnered with the Gwinnett County Coalition’s program, the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute (GNLI) and Gwinnett SToPP. Each year, these organizations request GUIDE to facilitate teambuilding to start things off for their newest members during their annual kick-off retreat. New members are asked to work together all day Saturday and Sunday of the retreat to learn about their programs, receive training related to creating change in the community, and learn how to work better as a team. GUIDE staff are instrumental in leading new members through these developments and really help to get things moving right at the beginning of the retreat.

GUIDE staff will also conduct two workshops for the Atlanta Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club. The workshops will tackle topics related to Project-Based Learning and STEM in afterschool programming. During the Project-Based Learning workshop, participants will gain an understanding of the key characteristics of project-based learning and how it differs from other models and approaches; learn the principles for designing, assessing and managing project-based learning projects; and gain tools and resources for implementing project-based learning in youth development programs. STEM participants will come to understand the importance of implementing STEM in afterschool, participate in sample activities and facilitation, and review how scientific inquiry relates to STEM.

If you’re interested in custom events like the above, or something totally different, please don’t hesitate to contact our Director of Training and Capacity Building, Mary Kate Chapman ( We strive to provide a quality training every time and will work with you to customize the best event for your budget or link you with someone who can.

GUIDE is Gearing Up for the New School Year!

IMG_2480It’s that time of the year again when summer vacation comes to a close and anticipation for the school year sets in everywhere. Teachers begin attending meetings and preparing their lessons and classrooms, students are shopping for school supplies, college dorms are being prepped and cleaned and everyone is getting ready for the upcoming school year.

Here at GUIDE, we have experienced this same anticipation as we have had the opportunity of helping others in the community prepare for the return of their students this school year.

Gwinnett County Health and PE Teacher Pre-Planning Meeting

GC4 (2)GUIDE has a long-standing partnership with the Gwinnett County Board of Education in efforts to prevent substance abuse among youth and the problems associated with it. We are grateful for the relationship we have with the school system and the role it has played in our success in reducing underage drinking over the years.

Around 400 Gwinnett County Health and PE Teachers met last week at Collins Hill High School to plan for the year ahead. GUIDE was invited to come to the meeting and provide teachers with substance abuse prevention materials. We have been hard at work putting together packets of information about underage drinking and the effects alcohol has on the teenage brain, as well as the dangers of prescription drug abuse, both serious issues facing our teens. We provided them with tools that can help prevent teen use, misuse and abuse of these substances.

IMG_2482With these resources, teachers know the facts and dangers of underage drinking and other drugs and can educate their students about the risks. We appreciate these teachers and their willingness to care for their students and promote positive youth development.

Thank you to our partners, CETPA and the GA Rx Drug Abuse Prevention Initiative of the Council on Alcohol and Drugs, for providing us with Rx drug abuse prevention materials. With their help, we are able to work together for safe and healthy communities.

GUIDE looks forward to future success in these efforts to prevent substance abuse in Gwinnett and across the state.

Georgia Gwinnett College Student Worker and RA Training

Georgia Gwinnett CollegeRA Training 2 (GGC) is another one of GUIDE’s valuable community partners. We have worked together with them over the years to provide materials and resources, as well as share research of model programs for alcohol and other drug prevention on college campuses.  GGC does a great job of promoting positive behavior to prevent and reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by offering its students various alternative activities during the week and at night.

We think it is great that GGC supports the community by having developed alcohol-free dorms, which will minimize the availability of alcohol. This is another way that GGC shows its commitment to student success because studies show that alcohol negatively impacts academic performance.

We continue to work with GGC to help make it a healthy and safe place for its students. Over the past couple of weeks, we have planned and conducted two trainings at GGC for some of the college’s student workers and 40 of their Resident Assistants (RAs). During the training, we educated the participants about the dangerous effects of underage and binge drinking, prescription drug abuse and marijuana use.

IMG_2542The student workers and RAs also discussed ways they can use the information as tools for keeping the dorm areas safe and preventing use and abuse of these substances. Now they are more aware of what to look for when it comes to drug consumption and related risky behaviors. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with these incredible young adults and, together, make a difference in our community.

Team Building Activity: The Star

The Star 

This is a quick and easy team building activity that you can accomplish with any group, made up of youth or adults. We recently used this activity with our 2014 Georgia Teen Institute Staff during Staff Development Weekend and are so excited to share it with you!

20140315_111316Time Needed: 15 – 20 minutes

Group Size: Any, split into teams of 12-15

Materials: A very long rope or ball of yarn (40-50 feet) tied to itself to form a circle


Star 1Ask everyone in the group to grab the rope and get into a circle.

Inform everyone that they cannot let go of the rope or trade places with others, but they can slide their hands along the rope.

The goal is to get the whole group to create a five pointed star with the rope (the kind with the crisscrosses in the middle).

Once they think the task is complete, ask them to slowly lower the star to the ground and step back to admire their work.

Debrief Questions:

  • Was your team successful? If so, how?
  • What did your planning process look like?
  • Did anyone emerge as a leader? What actions or characteristics made them a leader?
  • What roles did others play during the activity?
  • In what ways does this activity relate to the real world?

Star 3If you use this team building activity with your group, let us know how it goes. If you already do this activity and know of fun or meaningful variances, we would love to know about that, too. Please reach out and keep connected!

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!