July 26, 2000
By Andrea Preston
Teen-agers from local and area high schools are learning valuable lessons about leadership, team work and a drug-free lifestyle at the Indiana Teen Institute at Vincennes University this summer.
The institute provides learning opportunities for the development of student leaders from Indiana high schools and helps turn these leaders into effective advocates for the prevention of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Students will then be able to teach these lessons to other peers and will advocate a drug-free lifestyle in their high school.
Vincennes University has two institutes each summer, with the second one in session this week. There are 101 students from Indiana, including representatives from Vincennes Lincoln, Vincennes Rivet, North Knox and South Knox high schools. There approximately 20 staff members who teach at the institute.
Drew Russell, a sophomore at Rivet, said the institute is fun.
“I am meeting everyone here and learning leadership skills to right the wrong,” he said.
Students and adult participants work with volunteer adult and youth staff members to gain knowledge in the areas of leadership, prevention programming and wellness risk factors for adolescents. Team involvement and working together are stressed.
General sessions, breakout workshops, small group discussions and team building activities are also part of the agenda. Action plans for each school/community team are completed and ready for implementation by the end of the training process.
“It (institute) is not what I expected; it is so much more,” said South Knox senior Megan Smith. “I am glad to get involved and I want to make a difference at my school.”
Director Bill Lucas, a certified health education specialist and prevention professional, has been in charge of the ITI program for the past 11 years. He has directed 20 institutes.
“Our earlier institute was a success and this one is running smoothly,” Lucas said. “The kids learn a lot and can take them back to their communities.”
A Miami, Fla., artist Xavier Cortada, who paints murals at events and conferences, is participating in the institute by involving students in a mural he painted this week. Cortada involved all the students by allowing them to write a saying, poetry or draw art on a small sheet of paper. Each paper was then made a part of the three canvas section mural. One piece of paper said, “You miss 100 percent of all the shot you fail.”
The mural depicts a student reaching out to other students, while still connecting to others and the community. Within the mural are symbols representing events that have taken place during the institute. It is not known, yet, where the mural may be displayed.
The Indiana Teen Institute began in 1984 and trained teams of high school students within Indiana in the area of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use prevention. This the seventh year for the institute to be at VU.
ITI is currently funded by the Indiana State Department of Education, the Indiana Department of Family and Social Services Administration, Division of Mental Health, tuition fees and private contributions. Both programs are part of the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, Inc.