By Lauren Gallegos
Substance-use prevention has been around for a long time. From the “Just Say No” campaign of the ’80s to the OC Sheriff’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program that provides education to school-age youth on the dangers of drugs.
What we have learned is that prevention should include more than campaigns instructing youth to say no to drugs, or stand-alone education about the harms of youth using alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.
Such substances are prevalent and easy to access, and use of alcohol and marijuana is endorsed by celebrities and our culture. This is causing low perception of harm from their use. When teens are asked why they use drugs, they say, “to escape reality,” “to chill out,” “to numb the anxiety,” or to “de-stress.”
What prevention professionals are hearing is that teens need support, and when they lack support, they find it in drugs and alcohol.
Substance-use prevention must be holistic and supportive, and the AIM High program through the Noble Path Foundation addresses healthy youth development to prevent unhealthy choices.
In 2022, the AIM High program was established by the Noble Path Foundation in partnership with the Community Outreach Alliance (COA). The Wellness & Prevention Coalition has long been a partner with AIM High and COA to support healthy youth.
The AIM (Advocacy, Inspiration, Mentorship) High program combines education with leadership development, skill-building, social activities and connections to supportive services.
During the seven-week program, teens learn about wellness and nutrition, healthy relationships and communication, as well as coping strategies to handle everyday challenges and societal pressures.
Additionally, wellness activities are offered to promote healthy habits among peers, such as yoga, music lessons, gardening, art, and supervised social activities. The AIM High program also connects youth to career development programs to provide opportunities for professional growth, helping youth in exploring future goals.
Most importantly, AIM High and all Noble Path activities are free to participants, making a healthier future accessible for everyone.
I have been working closely with the AIM High program and Noble Path since 2018 as a speaker, facilitator, and supporter. What I find special about this program is that teens gain more than awareness or knowledge; they gain tangible skills that they can use in their daily lives, and they often develop a new passion.
AIM High is a great example of how a community can work together to support young people. Wellness & Prevention Center staff member Leslie Lopez and local marriage and family therapist Holly Grupe will facilitate the winter session.
Workshops will be led by the Wellness & Prevention Center, Laura’s House, Partners4Wellness, Connect-OC, the Santa Ana Police Department, Lead2Goals, The Noble Path Foundation, and OBEY Clothing.
To learn more, visit thenoblepathfoundation.org/aim-high/
The Noble Path Foundation is a sector leader for the Wellness & Prevention Coalition, a federally funded Drug Free Communities coalition working collaboratively to lower youth substance use in San Clemente. To find out more or join the coalition, please email email@example.com.
Lauren Gallegos, ACSW, is the Prevention Director at the Wellness & Prevention Center.