Youth Drug Prevention can be Fun!
February 8, 2007
By Beth Gabor, Yolo County Public Information Officer & Kimberly Bellows, U.C. Davis Intern
Who knew alcohol and drug prevention could be so much fun, but with Yolo County’s Friday Night Live (FNL) program, that is exactly what you will find. The statewide program, developed in 1984, began as a pilot dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by teens driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. In the early years, youth involved were organized into high school-based student action groups. The success rate was so great that in 1988 a statewide office was established. By 1990, the number of counties with FNL programs increased 300% and the focus shifted from preventing drinking and driving among teens to promoting healthy lifestyles free of alcohol and drugs among youth. Today, FNL programs are focused on forming youth/adult partnerships and providing programs rich in opportunities and support so young people will be less likely to engage in problem behaviors, more likely to achieve in school, and more likely to attend higher education and secure gainful employment.
Yolo County opened its FNL office in 1989 under the umbrella of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Department. Originally an opportunity for high school students to come together in local school chapters, the program has grown to include middle schools in Club Live and both high school and middle school students in the FNL mentoring program. Many counties have elementary school programs, known as FNL Kids, which Yolo County is expected to establish this year as well.
FNL and Club Live students meet after school for fun activities that incorporate life skills and drug and alcohol prevention programs. The mentoring program provides opportunities for high school students to mentor middle school students. FNL programs are also implemented in Juvenile Hall and Midtown School (a court/community school), including two specialists who help these at-risk youth develop personal goals, complete probation requirements, become successful in school, explore jobs, and locate counseling services and referrals. This program is funded by the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools grant.
The Yolo County FNL Youth Council is another opportunity available for youth. This is a group of young people that meets monthly to discuss and plan events which provide opportunities for youth in Yolo County to come together in a variety of settings, from conferences on youth issues to community service projects. The council provides young people a place to voice their opinions and make decisions while learning from one another. Program staff emphasize that within the council, as well as other FNL programs, youth are making all the decisions. “Adult allies” is the phrase of choice employees use to describe themselves, demonstrating how they want the students to take charge of program development and implementation. Students see this “youth driven, youth led” structure as an important part of the FNL program.
“We want to encourage a continued and expanded presence of FNL programs in Yolo County schools because we believe these programs truly make a difference in the lives of our youth,” said Angela Angel, FNL Program Coordinator. “Although success is often difficult to measure, the measure of success for us is the youth keep coming back for more.”
To learn more about FNL programs, or to schedule a presentation in your school, call (530) 406-4855.