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ASAAP director helps youth tackle tough issues
Seventy percent of area high school seniors say they've consumed alcohol at least once in their life. One organization is aiming to turn that trend around.
They call themselves ASAAP or the Area Substance and Alcohol Abuse Prevention coalition.
In this special report, News 5's Education reporter, Lauren Conley, brings us an inside look at the driving force behind the group.
"Everyday I just think it's a big struggle to walk through the halls of a high school," said Maddie Tschauner, Youth Voice, ASAAP.
A struggle that ASAAP is trying to make even just a little bit easier.
Issues like drug abuse and underage drinking are just the tip of the iceberg for this organization.
"We're finding that all these other issues that we are dealing with in the schools are important to us, too, because they all interconnected. They all create struggles," said ASAAP Executive Director Scott Stemper.
Stemper has devoted his life to giving a voice to youth by discussing topics nobody else wants to touch.
"They're bringing them up and they're making sure that you know what's going on and that you know how to act and how you should act," said St. Cecilia senior Brittany Trausch.
What started out as drug and alcohol prevention has expanded into a comprehensive wellness program.
Bullying, dating violence, HIV and distracted driving are just a few of the topics discussed each month in participating schools.
ASAAP covers a four county district including Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties.
Stemper recalls the moment that keeps him devoted to his work.
Back in 2011, ASAAP paired with the South Heartland District Health Department to hold focus groups among teens in all four counties.
"The youth just vented. They just, basically, said that adults don't talk to us and we don't feel comfortable talking to communities or we just don't feel like there's that open dialogue that can happen," Stemper said.
Out of the 12 schools in ASAAP's four county district, eight participate in their program. Stemper has made it his personal goal to work in all 12.
"It's almost an addiction. There are so many pressures out there from youth and adults. It is a personal goal for me," said Stemper.
Just over a year with this strategy, feedback is positive.
"This is like once a month, like about tons of different issues that we can all relate to," said St. Cecilia senior Madison Hucke.
For Maddie Tschauner, she just hopes ASAAP could work in her school.
Hastings High, Adams Central, Sutton and Kenesaw currently don't participate in ASAAP.
A junior at Adams Central in Hastings and the Youth Voice on ASAAP's board of directors, Maddie has a bold opinion on the matter.
"Those kids are getting a touch of what's going on and our school isn't. We're just kind of... think it's no big deal. (Is that frustrating?) Yeah, yeah of course," said Tschauner.
She says drugs, alcohol and bullying are the biggest issues for teens at Adams Central and any school, anywhere.
"We can sit there and, boy, we don't want to talk about this with our youth, but youth are already talking about it. They're already talking about the misconceptions and perceptions that are out there. It's important for us to talk about the factual things," said Stemper.
What is it about ASAAP; is there a specific part of their strategy that you think works?
"I think it's Scott, about ASAAP. I think that Scott is very, very passionate about what he's doing. He gets very upset about things when I tell him about what's going on in a high school and to see that he cares that much it just means a lot," said Tschauner.
For Scott, making a difference in the life of area kids is his mission.
"For me, I want to do something yesterday," Stemper said.
News 5 spoke with the principal's at both Hastings High and Adams Central about why they don't participate in the monthly program. Both say time is the biggest issue.
Principal Dave Barrett with Adams Central tells News 5 that the school is planning on getting more involved saying, quote, "It's a constant battle" between preventing drug and alcohol use and stopping it among those kids who already do.
Prevention is an important step because kids are trying alcohol at a younger and younger age.
It may be hard to believe, but even 6th graders are reporting drinking alcohol.
In a survey of students from ASAAP's district, 12% of area 6th graders say they've consumed alcohol and nearly 30% of 8th graders.
Students also said that if adults want to change teen drinking, they should quote "practice what they preach."
Almost all the students agreed that they're around poor role models including adults who provide alcohol to minors.
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