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Frank Ferry: Blue Ribbon Task Force celebrates 10th anniversary

Live from City Hall

Posted: January 14, 2010 8:55 p.m.
Updated: January 15, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
January marks the 10th anniversary of the Santa Clarita’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. Formed in 2000 in response to concerns voiced by our community, elected officials and advocates about the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco by local teens, the Task Force has grown to become an important community resource in helping to educate parents and address key teen issues.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force comprises representatives from the city, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, schools, school districts, nonprofit organizations, businesses, parents and teens.

Over the years, the organization has won numerous awards, including four from the California Parks and Recreation Society in recognition of its efforts to effectively educate parents and inform teens about the importance of making good choices with regard to drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other key life choices.

When the task force began 10 years ago, it focused on a number of relevant topics affecting local teens, including the use and availability of drugs and alcohol to teens, support of policy targeting providers of illegal substances to minors and zoning issues to keep adult-oriented establishments out of teen-frequented areas.

Elected officials from the city of Santa Clarita and local school districts extended their support early on, signing a community charter into action in 2001 and pledging to support and enhance the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s efforts.

Over the course of the last decade, the task force has continued to strive to increase awareness about the dangers of alcohol, drug and tobacco use through targeted education programs, well-organized events and relevant campaigns to address prevalent teen issues.

The group tackled social pressures and drug use with “What’s the big RAVE all about?” in May 2001; driving safety issues with “Fast, furious and fatal” in April 2002, held in conjunction with the launch of the Family Driving Contract; and legal ramifications with “Court is in session: Teen issues and trends through a judge’s eyes” in May 2004.

In 2006, the task force dedicated one of its most recognized youth outreach efforts to date — the Youth Grove at Central Park.

Presented with the prestigious League of California Cities’ Award of Excellence in 2006, the Youth Grove is an emotional and poignant memorial for local residents 24 years of age and under who lost their lives on the road.

The award-winning site also serves as a graphic educational tool to inform youth about the consequences of reckless driving.

Today, the Blue Ribbon Task Force has grown in both size and scope and encompasses a number of topics, including peer pressure, teen stress, reckless driving, drug abuse and much more.

The annual Teen Scene Unplugged, for example, is presented by the Blue Ribbon Task Force and attracts more than 500 people annually, providing local teens and their parents with real-life coping skills and positive solutions to teen issues.

The task force has distributed more than 12,000 Parent Tool Kits to local parents since 2001. The custom tool kit contains the “Straight Answers to Tough Questions” booklet as well as other local parenting information and resources.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force also launched numerous safety campaigns including a drug-free workplace campaign; Dads and Moms Against Drugs in partnership with ACTION; Stay Alive on the Drive, an incentive program spearheaded by Mountasia Fun Center of Santa Clarita to promote safe driving among high school students; and “Don’t be Your Kid’s Drug Dealer” to raise awareness about the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs by teens.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force’s success would not be possible without support from outstanding community partners like the SCV Sheriff’s Station, ACTION, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital’s behavioral unit, the William S. Hart Union High School District, SCV Youth Project, College of the Canyons, Visions in Progress Youth Advisory Committee, the SCV Child and Family Center, Safe Rides, local businesses such as Strategies for Success and community parents.

With the help of these vital organizations and local residents, the Blue Ribbon Task Force will continue its positive community efforts though 2010 and beyond.

Local organizations, parents and teens looking to get involved can call (661) 250-3708 or visit www.santa-clarita.com/blueribbon.

Frank Ferry is a Santa Clarita City Councilman. You can be reached at fferry@santa-clarita.com. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Live from City Hall” is provided by the city and appears Fridays in The Signal.

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