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Resources abound for navigating the tough teen years

By Lisa Nicklanovich

The upswing in teen cyber bullying across the nation is just one example of how navigating the teen years can be challenging for both parents and teens. Many resources exist here in Douglas County thanks to Deputy Ann Walton of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Staci McCormack, student wellness coordinator of Douglas County schools.

The Sheriff’s Office and Douglas County Schools partner in many ways to educate and support our community. While McCormack is a huge supporter of the Youth Education and Safety in Schools (Y.E.S.S.) program which Walton teaches in middle schools, Walton reinforces the “be the change” curriculum which McCormack brings to high school freshmen. The two have partnered for girls retreats (made possible by an anonymous donor), parent boot camps, and team building workshops.

Walton said, “The success we see with all these programs is amazing and we want to reach out and do more. I received a call from a parent of a girl who had attended one of our retreats who told me how her daughter had handled a tough situation because of her experience at the retreat. After the parent boot camps, parents say they can talk social media language and internet safety with their kids.”

McCormack remarked, “Kids have heard about all the tools available to them since kindergarten; so why aren’t they using them? Maybe it’s apathy or that they haven’t stepped into a leadership role yet. Our goal is to develop their internal confidence.”

The pair created an “enlighten, empower, and empathetic” curriculum which is focused on at the retreats, but is part of everything they teach. McCormack explained, “We provide tons of challenge by choice opportunities. When teens step up and be a leader, there’s an instant development and growth and confidence. They challenge themselves, have success, and walk away stronger. If a teen is enlightened, meaning they are self-aware and confident, it carries through to all their decisions.”

Walton remarked, “Empathy changes everything. In cases of cyber bullying, kids are not thinking beyond their screen. They’re not thinking that what they’re typing could hurt someone. When we say things directly we know by the person’s reaction, their face and body language, that we said something wrong. Empathy also comes into play when teens consider how decisions they make about drugs and alcohol can affect those around them. ”

A group of girls at a retreat in Larkspur walking in their gear to go ziplining.  McCormack said, “The experience translates to so many aspects in life.”  Walton added, “The girls see leadership qualities in themselves emerge when they take control and rise to the challenge, whether it be just gearing up or helping others.”

Walton and McCormack encourage the community to visit for a wide variety of information including the details of the Y.E.S.S. program taught in schools, and resources for suicide prevention, bullying and teen relationships. Contact either Walton (e-mail) or McCormack (e-mail) for more information about upcoming events. The two are open to requests from parents, coaches or club sponsors for free team building workshops for any group in the Douglas County school system.



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