On Feb. 1, at a mental health forum in Arroyo Grande sponsored by Transitions-Mental Health Association, called Journey of Hope, I was entranced by a vocal and guitar song presented by James Statler, executive director of the Community Counseling Center, and Helen Tang, 17, of Nipomo High School.
Called Aim High, the song was a collaboration between Statler when he was director of Generation Next (formerly LifeBound) in Nipomo and his students. Helens clear voice rang out in the large auditorium.
Fast-forward to March at Andreinis Coffee House in the Arroyo Grande Village, where I got to hear the song again, this time performed just for me. Tang is the president of Nipomo High Schools Friday Night Live chapter.
Friday Night Lives purpose is to raise awareness at school of sober living, mental health issues such as depression, suicide prevention, self-harm (cutting) and bullying and to make our community a better place, Tang said.
Added Statler, Its purpose is also service and leadership.
When Statler became executive director of the counseling center a year ago, he wanted to increase the number of youth we provide services for and contacted Family Resource Center, South County SAFE (Services Affirming Family Empowerment), Generation Next and Friday Night Live in Nipomo.
Counselors from the center are now helping youths in South County at the Family Resource Center, Nipomo High School and Dana Elementary School.
Mariana Paredes works with younger children and their families at Dana. She is bilingual, working mostly with Spanish-speaking families, doing assessments and counseling. Brianne Lotempio counsels at Nipomo High School.
Tang is planning, through Friday Night Live, a whole week of different events to raise awareness of anti-bullying, later in the spring.
Were hoping to get FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), the International Club and the Key Club Kiwanis to participate, she said.
They are also working to raise awareness of the R word (retarded), a common word of belittlement used among teens.
Tang plans to attend Cuesta College in the fall after doing volunteer work this summer. She loves to write and hopes to be a columnist someday. Shes writing a childrens story for her creative writing class. Her heroine is looking for a golden star.
Writing helps me through a lot. It really makes me happy, she remarked.
Among Tangs many other interests are making jewelry, singing and playing the guitar. You can find her writings and music at http://writeforlife94.weebly.com.
Rachel Borovay is the Friday Night Live coordinator for San Luis Obispo County, including the Lucia Mar Unified School District. Its a youth drug and alcohol prevention program that also addresses mental health issues.
Its a place for our youth to come and make positive changes in their schools and communities, she said.
The Anti-Defamation League and Friday Night Live are working together on three activities per year to promote tolerance, in a program called No Place for Hate.
This year, the programs deal with anti-bullying, collaborating with the Gay Straight Alliance in a Day of Silence on April 20, and How Do You Share the Love?, a campus climate activity, which includes a large poster where students write their ideas on sharing love.
For information, contact Statler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 543-7969.