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Student-led anti-drug media campaign set in motion

WLHS students launch anti-drug campaign with Oregon Partnership
by: lori hall  West Linn High School students, from left, Jarrod Howard, Drew Cribbs and Kevin Edwards, worked on an anti-drug media campaign this summer.

Parents: Believe it or not, your teens want you to talk to them about drugs, alcohol and peer pressure. At least that's one message the West Linn Teen Advisory Board (TAB) is sending.

Some West Linn teens had the chance to create, record and launch a new anti-drug campaign with Oregon Partnership.

TAB is a branch of the West Linn Community Task Force, which formed last fall to address teen chemical and alcohol use in the city. Members of TAB are West Linn High School students who represent each grade level.

TAB member Drew Cribbs, a junior, said he joined TAB because he was 'trying to stay on my own path, and help others make good choices too.'

Kevin Edwards, a sophomore, felt similar, saying, 'It gets me out in the community and makes me feel better about myself.'

Last year, the task force and the advisory board got the attention of Oregon Partnership, which is a stateside nonprofit that promotes health and wellness in kids and communities by focusing on drug and alcohol awareness.

'We identify what influences kids directly, both negatively and positively,' said Emily Moser, Oregon Partnership director of parent and youth programs.

Oregon Partnership received funding from Clackamas County to work with communities on a nationwide campaign. The nonprofit selected Estacada and West Linn.

'It was very timely,' Moser said. 'The community was primed and ready to address these issues.'

After a high-profile arrest of a West Linn teen in December 2010, the high school and the community started talking about drug and alcohol awareness.

'What I learned was how many kids are affected by this,' said Julie Edwards, president and co-founder of TAB and Kevin Edwards' mom.

'Parents need to be aware of drugs and alcohol in the community,' Kevin Edwards said.

'TAG IT'

Oregon Partnership has been working with TAB for the last nine months. The group first helped with the 'TAG IT' project in which teens indentified places and sources of influence.

Next, as an outreach project, TAB members visited their old middle schools and spoke to the students about transitioning to high school and to prepare them for upcoming challenges.

'Peer mentoring is a well-proven strategy,' Moser said of the outreach project.

The final stage of the Oregon Partnership collaboration is a media campaign. The teens met two or three times in focus groups to discuss concepts, ideas and formats. They then met several more times to tweak and fine-tune their messages. Moser described the process as 'student run with professional guidance.'

The group talked about messages and its target audiences. There were two types of messages - one aimed at parents and one aimed at peers.

'It's hard to be a teenager, and it's hard to be a parent of a teenager, even if you live in West Linn,' Moser said. 'This is an opportunity to connect where it makes sense.'

The messages aimed at parents focused on being courageous enough to have tough conversations with teens, as well as listen to them. One states, 'Parents: Life is not a straight line. Help guide your teen down a healthy path.'

'Start a friendly

conversation'

Cribbs said that, sometimes parents do talk with their kids, but it comes out confrontational. He said TAB's message is to 'start a friendly conversation.'

Kevin Edwards added that parents need to be involved with teenagers' lives, citing one campaign message, 'I choose to be present.'

The messages aimed at teens focus on making good choices and doing what they are passionate about. One ad discusses the ability for teens to change their lives whenever they might stray, comparing life changes as U-turns.

'If you are on the wrong path, you can always make a U-turn,' Cribbs said.

Print, radio campaign

The media campaign includes print ads and radio public service announcements. The ads are running in the West Linn Tidings (page A13) and the Lake Oswego Review as well as also in metro and statewide publications, such as 'Portland Family,' 'Metro Parent,' 'Central Oregon Family News' and 'Southern Oregon Family News.'

The radio ads are currently being aired on KGON, 92.3 FM. Both Cribbs and junior Jarrod Howard, who is in the application process to be a TAB member, helped record the radio ads.

'It was a fun process to learn how it's done,' Cribbs said.

'They worked hard and they were incredibly creative,' said Moser of TAB members.

The radio ads will run for the next three months and the print ads will run until the end of the school year, according to Moser. As part of the project, the Tidings is matching Oregon Partnership advertising dollars so the ads can run larger and make a bigger impact in the community, according to Brian Monihan, Tidings publisher.

'In our efforts to drive home the importance of this campaign and this issue in our community, and as the local newspaper, the Tidings has also stepped up as a significant donor to this campaign,' Monihan said.

TAB is poised to grow this year from 20 to 40 members, 10 representatives from each grade level at West Linn High School.

In October, the task force will be hosting an adult-only talk, including a panel discussion comprised of health experts, legal experts and students.

For more information about the task force or TAB, visit www.westlinncommunitytaskforce.org.