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Please join our efforts in Southwest VA to positively combat the substance abuse epidemic that has so negatively impacted our region. A united voice can make a difference. Prevention has significantly reduced the “litter” and “smoking” problem in our county and together we can definitely change the drug culture area as well! Are you or someone you know looking for help with substance abuse? Do you need resources relevant to the prevention, treatment and recovery from substance abuse? Or would you like more information on how you can become involved as a community member to prevent substance abuse? Go to to become involved.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mountain Youth Drama 2011 Highlights Russell County Virginia.mp4Mountain Youth Drama An Alternative Prevention Program for Youth in Virginia That Works!

 by: Lori Gates-Addison, LCSW, PS
Mountain Youth Drama Director

Columbine, VA Tech and the current Prescription Drug Epidemic in Southwest Virginia are continuous reminders to me of the never ending need to provide kids with a "place to be heard...and a notion that they are not alone." Alternative opportunities for youth provide positive forums and mentoring atmospheres for youth to develop. Mountain Youth Drama has been a contagious way to build a sense of community in youth in a society that continues to be more self driven and less concerned with the welfare of others. Youth have the potential to provide a powerful avenue for change in our culture and they are often forgotten or discounted as incapable or just overlooked until it is too late.
Mountain Youth Drama is a special group of kids that have continually touched my life for the last 17 years. I am Certified Prevention Specialist as well as a Licensed Clinical Therapist who has given my own time at nights to facilitate a theatrical group of high school kids in rural Southwest Virginia. I am convinced these kids make a difference to their audiences and more importantly to each other! As we in Southwest Virginia are continuing to deal with the current prescription drug epidemic, I am again strongly reminded of the need for alternative prevention programs like Mountain Youth Drama that build resiliency in youth.
Mountain Youth Drama encompasses the prevention philosophy that when you offer arts programs to youth, you provide opportunities to foster resiliency and promote healthy development. Resiliency refers to children's ability to successfully adapt and develop in healthy ways, despite exposure to risk and adversity. Building resiliency is not something that adults do to or for youth. Rather, it is the process of providing a caring environment, creating opportunities for young people to contribute to their communities, offering positive alternatives for free time, and helping young people make a successful and healthy transition into adulthood. Specifically, the protective factors that mountain Youth Drama nurtures through its youth programming include:
Opportunities to Participate- Arts programs provide active learning, direct participation as well as health promoting and skills building activities.
Goal-oriented competence – Arts programs promote the development of competence skills, vocational skills and discipline.
Caring Relationships - Through relationships with drama instructors, choreographers, music directors and coaches, youth have the opportunity to be involved with mentors to support and encourage them to succeed.
High Expectations - Arts programs give youth the opportunity to develop patience, set goals, communicate expectations, as well as an avenue to receive recognition.
Physical Competence – Coordination and fine motor skills and an over regard for physical health. (Us Department of Education, 1998)
Cognitive Competence –Problem solving and analysis, evaluation, creativity and imagination.
Civic Competence- Through performing and teaching, youth involved in the arts see themselves as valuable members of the community.
- Learning Systems Group (1998)
Mountain Youth Drama was developed 17 years ago as an effort to provide substance abuse prevention through a theatrical production presented to youth throughout Russell County. The cast of Mountain Youth Drama is comprised of high school youth from all three of Russell County Virginia High Schools who audition each year for the group. The members sign a contract making a commitment to remain drug free and maintain passing grades at school. Through the use of song, dance and original drama, the cast of Mountain Youth Drama spends seven months rehearsing weekly to develop a show that reminds it’s audiences of the common struggles that youth are faced with during the adolescent years as well as the at-risk issues that face young people in our current society. Topics over the years have included teen relationships both with peers and adults, teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug use, child abuse, peer pressure, suicide, decision making and the everyday issues that teens experience.
Kids from all three of Russell County High Schools, representing a variety of interests come to participate, including academics, athletics and various arts specialties. 85% of these kids over the years have gone on to college, many come back to help with new drama groups developing their shows, and most all of them continue to share their accomplishments with me through visits , phone calls and e-mails. By using the arts, I am proud to ignite the concepts of teamwork, acceptance, tolerance, and the ability to build solid relationships in the teen years. I have seen the lasting effects blossom over the years through the accomplishments of many former members.
My initial hopes in creating Mountain Youth Drama were to not only provide a message of prevention through the groups’ shows, but to provide an added opportunity for youth in our area to participate in the arts. As a counselor, I have learned that youth benefit personally from an array of opportunities to enhance their self esteem. The arts provide young people with an avenue to sharpen their ability to be creative as well as present themselves on a regular basis to a group of people. More importantly this group has given youth a forum to address openly the issues that they themselves feel the need to problem solve. In light of the on-going violent tragedies that continue to occur in schools around the country, I am reminded of the responsibility we all have in nurturing youth. Mountain Youth Drama has not only impacted it’s audiences through modeling positive peer pressure to make the right choices in life, but it has been a true inspiration to me. I have had the privilege to watch young people take a stand for presenting messages that have not always been the popular thing to do with their peers. I have also watched them reach out to promote to their audiences a message of hope to students who may be facing a difficult time in their life. The true pleasure has been to witness the bonds that cast members have formed with each other which has proven to be a positive influence on all of them.
Rather than focusing on to much of the negative things that youth do, I believe we all must continue to make an effort to be responsible for supporting our youth and the positive things that they are a part of. The responsibility lies with all of us as parents, individuals, teachers, churches, the media and a community. Giving youth a vision of who they are and who they want to be, can only make a positive change on the future of our children and our country
Kids are resilient, curious, impulsive, creative, and they look up to and listen to each other! They long for supportive relationships with adults. Most importantly they are looking for a forum to be heard! I have been "listening" to them for years and the blessings I have received are never ending! Only the other week I had a member who graduated three years ago come back to share with current members that she hoped to someday provide the same inspiration to others that her experience in Mountain Youth Drama provided to her.
Please feel free to view more information on MYD at our website or our FaceBook page at!/home.php?sk=group_2348383709&ap=1 .There are articles and pictures that may give you some more insight into the impact and success of this youth driven group.
I am always inspired when I think of one of my first drama members who said "We are kids right here in Russell County VA., doing all the right things for all the right reasons"! We are proud of Mountain Youth Drama, we hope you will be too.” Becky Kimmel (Cast member, 1996-1999)

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