STARS efforts recognized at luncheon, awards event

PARKERSBURG – Participants in a leadership program geared toward teens learned the value of doing something for the betterment of their communities.

On Thursday, participants in the Super Teens Achieving Regional Success (STARS) program gathered at Parkersburg City Park for a luncheon and awards program to honor the work they have done and planting the possibility for more in the future.

“We did a regional leadership day in the fall, which brought students together from across the area and taught them about service,” said Nancy Creighton, children’s outreach liaison for Westbrook Health Services. “We challenged them to go back into their areas, identify a need within their community and to execute a service project dedicated to meeting that need.

“(Thursday) was a celebration day where we brought back all the students who completed a service project and they shared what they did.”

Students, grades 6-12, gathered from Blennerhassett Middle School, Calhoun County Middle/High School, Edison Middle School, Ripley High School, Ritchie County Middle/High School, Parkersburg High School, Parkersburg South High School, Tyler Consolidated Middle School, Tyler Consolidated High School and Williamstown High School.

Service projects included new student orientation, making Easter baskets for the elderly, feeding the hungry in their community, doing a clothes drive to provide warm clothes to those who needed them, hosting a Family Fun Fair, ringing the bells for the Salvation Army at Christmas, hosting a lunch time group to help students having problems, collecting coats and blankets for the homeless, hosting a St. Patrick’s Dance to benefit local food pantries and benefiting their local homeless shelters.

“The idea is when we talk about youth, we always seem to talk about the problems,” Creighton said. “This event was to recognize what was right with our students, recognizing their potential for leadership, recognize their commitment to serving and recognizing how they can positively impact their community.

“It was great to recognize what they were able to accomplish in their communities throughout the year.”

The youth program is a part of the Schools Tackling At Risk Situations, an educational program designed by Westbrook Health Services to address situations known to negatively impact the development of youth and provide alternatives in dealing with those causes.

“We need to model positive behaviors that they can carry throughout their lives,” said Stella Moon, the adolescent health initiative coordinator for RESA V . “It involves them in something that they can carry with them through their adult lives.

“We are focusing on the youth who are trying to become leaders, who are trying to help with something and they need that extra incentive.”

They planted flowers in the park to honor military families and they will take the flowers back to their communities to continue the work.

Moon said the kids learned the value of working as a group and having a greater impact as being a part of something, rather than trying to do it alone. They learned they always have a choice.

“No matter what they do, it has a ripple effect,” she said. “They also learned that it is fun to give.

“Out of that they become more enthused and want to do more out in their communities. They will also be able to encourage other youth to do what they are doing.”

Parkersburg High School freshman Rachel Sullivan was part of a group of PHS students who helped with the Salvation Army Kettle Drive, raising money, and participating in the “Lunch Bunch,” a group that gets together with kids every Thursday to help them through any hard times they might be having in their lives.

“I thought it was good for us to all come together to make a difference in our community,” Sullivan said. “It was fun to be able to help people.

“I really liked it.”