Campaign Encourages DC Kids to Put Best Foot Forward

first_imgAmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia, a Medicaid provider, has fashioned an ongoing summer self-esteem workshop. It aims to help teens cope with local violence while encouraging them to live up to their potential. The “Best Me – The Blunt Truth on Violence and Prevention Summer Series” uses music, storytelling, video skits and development activities to encourage behavioral change among youth. High school students enrolled in the six-week program are from the Mayor Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. The campaign attempts to foster a supportive environment for kids to discuss issues that affect them. Topics covered include eating better, safe sex, domestic violence, and resolving conflicts through words, not fists.“It removes barriers and it makes it personal,” said Lauren Reynolds, the AmeriHealth Caritas D.C. marketing and communications consultant who devised the campaign. “Whatever your personal best is, and that’s in terms of decisions that you make, things that you do, people that you hang with, always doing things that will allow you to be and exhibit your best.” Reynolds wanted to do something to help local teens heal from the threats they sometimes face at school and in their communities. The wheels started turning last spring after she saw a video skit in the Streetz Blunt Truth Tour, which travels from state to state to help high school and college students combat youth violence and crime through video, dialogue and live entertainment. DJ Young Music, a local 20-year-old radio host, runs the Streetz Stop The Violence Foundation, which produces the tour Reynolds saw at Friendship Heights Academy in Northwest D.C. DJ Young Music created the foundation and tour in response to the slaying of his friend – rapper Douglas “Swipey” Brooks, 18 – during an attempted robbery. Two District men were arrested in connection with the homicide in February, according to The Washington Post. When it came to the programming piece, Reynolds teamed up with Streetz Blunt Truth Tour, public health consulting firm Trident House International, and FOuR Youth, which works to instill hope and leadership skills in District teens and their support systems. Reynolds also brought in MindRight and AprilMay Company to offer mental health support for high school students. MindRight guides teens through their problems via text message, while AprilMay offers outpatient mental health services to children and families. AmeriHealth, meanwhile, ensures the resources are in place for the kids. On July 28, roughly 100 students and advisors met at Brookland Middle School to discuss video skits on safe sex and the dangers of domestic violence. They also addressed various types of abuse, including bullying, physical and emotional abuse. The students played a version of charades that focused on safe sex. They then took a pledge to, among other things, own their futures, fall in love with growth, stay committed to lifelong learning and never lose sight of their dreams.Lauren Mallard, 15, said the program has taught her to put her best foot forward and to become a better version of herself by asking for help with schoolwork and supporting her mother. “I’m trying to be that person [that would say if]  you want to do something, I’ll do it with you,” Mallard told the AFRO. “You can learn and do stuff together.”The July 28 event marked the second installment of the program. The first one took place with another set of District teens last month. Two more installments will happen in August and September.Reynolds estimates the pilot program reached about 300 kids this summer. “We’re going to be doing the same thing in other high schools coming up this year,” she said.last_img

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