HAMLET – In an effort to educate local teenagers about how to successfully navigate everyday life, the Richmond County Health Education Department held its inaugural “Kickback at the Cole” event Saturday.
The affair was held at Richmond Community College’s Cole Auditorium from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, and had a host of events and activities to educate local students about how to live healthily and responsibly.
In conjunction with local sponsors and public figures, the Kickback featured guest speakers, presentations and interactive activities aimed at informing teens on the topics of peer pressure, decision making, drugs and alcohol, and teen pregnancy. The generosity of sponsors and funding from the Health Education Department’s Reach Grant helped make the event free for all teens ages 13 to 19.
“I will be there at the opening of your schools, and I will be there at your athletic events,” Richmond County Sheriff James E. Clemmons, Jr., said as he addressed those in attendance. “I will even be there at your graduation. But I should never be there to turn the key to lock you into a cell.”
These forward, yet guiding words, sent the message that students will always have the support of local law enforcement and other organizations as they traverse the hiccups of teenage life.
The day’s festivities began with a motivational speech by Richmond Senior High School head football coach, Bryan Till, about the importance of decision making. Through the use of storytelling and the sharing of personal experience, Till stressed the importance of always making the right choices and surrounding yourself with the right people.
“One way to do this is through involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities,” Till advised. “Get involved in school and create an extended family of friends and trusted individuals who you can count on for support.”
Similar messages were shared by Sheriff Clemmons, who spoke to the teens immediately after Till. In his speech, Clemmons also stressed the value of an education, stating that it, “will help you to achieve your goals in life and get to where you want to be one day.”
Clemmons also warned teens about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and how detrimental such activities can be to their health and reputation. The Sheriff explained that once such convictions have been placed on your record, they will never leave you, even after your sentence has been served.
“This will make the rest of your life harder, and your goals even more difficult to reach,” Sheriff Clemmons counseled.
The reigning Miss Forever Excellence Teen, Aniyah Stanton, also shared a motivational message with the crowd. From a teen perspective, she spoke of the negatives of peer pressure and the benefits of staying above it.
Stanton stated that building, “positive relationships with those around you, becoming a ‘pro’ at your favorite activities, and consistently ‘practicing doing right’ are three ways to help resist peer pressure.”
Rockingham Middle School’s behavior interventionist Bruce Stanback was the master of ceremonies for the event. In between speakers, Stanback shared his own words of wisdom with the teens, in addition to hosting interactive activities to help stress the importance of positive decision making and the negatives of peer pressure.
Another major component of the Kickback event was educating teens on the topics of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. These topics were addressed in a breakout session presented by health educator Allison Campbell.
Campbell began by showing startling statistics about Richmond County’s teen pregnancy and STI rates in an effort to prove to the teens that these issues are very real and could happen to them if they do not make the right choices. She also informed attendees of what resources are available to them within the county, and where to find more information about these issues should they have questions or need help.
However, Campbell urged all teens to first begin by talking to their parents or guardians about any questions or concerns they have with these matters.
Lots of games and activities were set up for the attendees to partake in to break up the flow of the speakers. These included a game truck, corn hole, basketball, a deejay, and even a drunk driving simulator. A free lunch and goodie bag of items from event sponsors were also provided.
With the first “Kickback at the Cole” event deemed a wonderful success, event coordinators hope the Kickback will become an annual event.