“Own The Upside” Exhibit Educates Parents About Warning Signs For Teenagers
by James Coulter
Imagine the bedroom of your average teenager. Magazines scattered on the floor. School books tossed aside on the bed. Desk overpiled with junk food wrappers and school notes. Music posters hanging from their wall.
Seems like an average enough scene. But take a closer look! Take a peek inside the desk drawer. Inside are several empty syringes and even a pacifier. These are signs that your typical average teenager may not be up to anything good.
Fortunately, this is not the bedroom of an average teenager. This is a mock model bedroom being used as an educational tool to help parents and guardians identify warning signs in their teenage children.
“Own The Upside, Avoid The Downside”, a new traveling exhibit created by the InnerAct Alliance, was unveiled to the public and dedicated through a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Bartow Public Library on Wednesday afternoon.
The traveling exhibit, set within a small mobile trailer, will be taken to local churches, Rotary Clubs, and other adult organizations to help teach local parents and guardians on how to spot signs that their children may be suffering from substance abuse, bullying, and other potential problems.
“We don’t want to go to schools for the children, we want to go to the parents…so that they are aware of what they should be looking for,” explained Angie Ellison, Interact Alliance Executive Director. “We believe we will have better informed parents who will hold their children to a higher standard, and maybe recognize some signs and symptoms early so they can prevent something tragic.”
The InnerAct Alliance (formerly Drug Prevention Resource Center), is a local non-profit organization focused on the prevention of substance abuse, bullying, anger management, and other potential problems that school-aged children, especially teenagers, often face.
The group meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at Southside Baptist Church. Their program consists of 12 teachers who help provide and facilitate evidence-based prevention programs within the local school system to help identify, prevent, and combat these common problems.
The good news is that, since their founding in 1985, the program has seen a significant decrease in substance abuse within the county. Statistics show that 96 percent of local teenagers do not use tobacco, 88 percent do not vape, 87 percent do not use marijuana, and 98 percent do not abuse prescription drugs.
Through their program, Interact Alliance hopes to see such trends continue by “owning the upside” of youth culture and “avoiding the downside” by teaching important tactics to parents and guardians. Above all, the best way to help ensure that a teenager becomes successful in their lives is for a strong parental adult figure to remain active and supportive in their lives, Ellison said.
“That is so important that you are the person who can make a difference to make them choose the right path versus the wrong path,” she said.
Helping dedicate the trailer that afternoon by cutting the ceremonial ribbon was the honorable Sheriff Grady Judd. The good Sheriff remains dedicated to ensuring that his deputies remain attentive to the needs of young people within the county.
He instructs his deputies to always check the kitchen of any how they visit, checking the cabinets and refrigerator to see if there is any fresh food for the children who live there. If there isn’t, his deputies will ensure that food is provided to the household.
“How we operate at the Sheriff’s Office, arrest is the last option, helping those children and those people in need are the first option,” he said. “When I go home at the end of the day, I am more excited about knowing that we have helped a child in need more than we put a bad guy in jail, because those children are our future.”
For more information about “Own The Upside”, visit their website at: https://www.owntheupsidepolk.com/ Or visit the InnerAct Alliance website at: http://www.inneractalliance.org/