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Zion teens learn risks of living dangerously

The freshmen sophomores Zion's New Tech High School listen discussi  about damages drugs gangs violence how thcan lead abuse.

The freshmen and sophomores at Zion's New Tech High School listen to a discussion about the damages of drugs, gangs and violence and how that can lead to abuse. | Photo by Gibbie Buchholtz

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Updated: March 14, 2014 8:38AM

New Tech high school students in Zion will learn about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs to the body and brain and how gangs and violence can change your life forever through a partnership of local groups on Thursday.

Last week, the freshman and sophomore classes heard the same speakers, which include: Elizabeth Thielen, clinical director at Nicasa, which promotes healthy lifestyles to prevent and treat substance abuse, addiction, and other risky behaviors with offices in Round Lake, Buffalo Grove and North Chicago; Jim Newman, an assistant state’s attorney; and Margie Taylor, a Zion elementary school board member who works at Vista Health.

New Tech in Zion teaches in the project-based learning style rather than the direct instructional model used in most high schools. The school focuses on learning skills and stressing the importance of teamwork, intrinsic learning, trust, respect, and responsibility.

Angel Jackson, a community partnership coordinator, said the free substance abuse prevention forums came about through a partnership with Coalition for Healthy Communities, Nicasa, the Zion Exchange Club and CREW, Community Resources for Education and Wellness.

“The goal is to inform students about how the use of alcohol and other drugs can affect the body and brain. Students will learn ‘Accountability Consequences When Exposing Oneself to Drugs and Gangs’ as well as how substance abuse can lead to child abuse and neglect,” she said. CREW has been around for 10 years and the Coalition for Healthy Communities has existed for 19 years.

Jackson said statistics show nearly nine out of ten (86 percent) of American high-school students say that some classmates are drugging, drinking and smoking during the school day, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII.

“To help combat these statistics, the forum’s resonating theme for the youth will be, “You have a choice; you have a voice, act accordingly,” she said.

Thielen discussed how drugs, tobacco and alcohol all affect the brain while Newman spoke about the consequences he sees as a prosecutor when someone exposes themselves to drugs, gangs and violence. Taylor reported on how the use of drugs and alcohol can lead to child abuse and neglect.

“Our effort is to raise the students awareness and not be afraid to speak up, ‘Mom and Dad, this isn’t right’,” said Jackson.

Thielen told them they need to “make those choices that lead you to where you want to be.” Newman laid out how many of those arrested have some sort of substance abuse and that one decision, like trying heroin, can affect you for the rest of your life.

“When you get into a car with someone, your life is now in the palm of their hand,” he said.

Taylor centered on health effects of alcohol and drugs and how an adult can become negligent and how that can lead to child abuse. Jackson said the students seemed engaged and asked questions.

“They asked how they could help if they knew someone was on drugs. It showed they wanted to do something and they were motivated,” she said.

In the months following the forum, Coalition for Healthy Communities and the Zion Exchange Club will continue to offer programs and events to assist teens in making better choices and improving their lives.

The Coalition for Healthy Communities is a non-profit organization created to lead communities in a collaborative effort to find solutions to problems that create barriers. For more information, visit their web site at, email to or call (847) 872-2830.

The Exchange Club of Zion was officially chartered last year with a vision to assist the Zion community in the areas of community service, Americanism, youth services, and child abuse prevention. You can visit their Facebook page at, email to or call (847)-350-9728.

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