PARKERSBURG - Area students are being encouraged to make a positive impact on their community through the Super Teens Achieving Regional Success program
Potential participants in the S.T.A.R.S. program will gather at the Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club for the Fall Leadership Series kick-off from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. Students from grades 6-12 are taught about service to the community and the potential problems they might face.
Westbrook Health Services and RESA 5 developed S.T.A.R.S. to help address mental wellness in schools.
The participants will be involved in sessions with speakers helping them to understand behaviors that may indicate a serious problem, what the consequences of certain behaviors may be and empower students to get help for themselves or others.
"We have contacted the area schools to send us their 'caterpillars,"' said Stella Moon, the adolescent health initiative coordinator for RESA 5.
They are focusing on the youth who are trying to become leaders, who are trying to help with something and they need extra incentive to follow through.
"There are so many opportunities to become involved that may benefit them," Moon said.
Last year, students participated 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.
Sessions will cover team building, leveraging volunteers and funding, developing community projects through unmet needs, and developing community projects through environment public safety.
The welcoming comments and opening remarks will be given by Robert Stephens of the McDonough Foundation. Toward the end of the day motivational speaker Stacey Fordyce will talk on topics important to the participants, organizers said.
The dangers or risky behaviors that could lead to trouble will be discussed, including drug and alcohol abuse, behavior problems, eating disorders and how these things can lead to further problems in someone's life.
Participants are challenged to go back into their areas, identify a need within their community and to execute a service project dedicated to meeting that need.
During last year's program, service projects included new student orientation, making Easter baskets for the elderly, feeding the hungry in the 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 lunchtime group to help students having problems, collecting coats and blankets for the homeless, hosting a St. Patrick's Day Dance to benefit local food pantries and homeless shelters.
"They learn how they can give back to their schools and communities," Moon said. "Some of these kids just need a little direction. When you work with them, it is amazing how creative these youth can be."
In the spring, an awards luncheon will be held to honor what the participants were able to achieve and the work being done in the community.