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New JV CHILL program gets big response from interested youths
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Martinsville Middle School students (from left) Katie Gilbert, Morgan Clemons, Sarah Laprade and Shayna Walker take part in a meeting for the new JV CHILL youth task force. (Contributed photo)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The new JV CHILL, a youth task force, has a total of about 120 members in Laurel Park, Fieldale-Collinsville and Martinsville middle schools.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response already,” said Bonnie Favero, prevention manager for Piedmont Community Services. “It shows it is something younger people are ready for and interested in.”

Parental participation also has been good, she said.

Katie Connelly, community organizer for prevention for Piedmont Community Services and coordinator for CHILL Youth Task Force, said JV CHILL is modeled after the CHILL groups in all Bassett, Magna Vista and Martinsville high schools and Carlisle School.

CHILL stands for Communities Helping Improve Local Lives. The high school CHILL has been involved in activities telling about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and how they and other risky behaviors can impair young people from reaching their goals in life, according to officials and the CHILL website. High school CHILL also hosts, among other things, an annual community youth rally and other safe and drug-free events.

Connelly said for some time, high school CHILL members had wanted to reach out to middle school students and their parents before the youth started making negative decisions.

Favero said JV CHILL hopes to start the message early and get middle-schoolers on track to decide to stay alcohol, tobacco and drug free, Favero said.

Bullying also is a focus, according to Connelly and other officials.

In October, motivational speaker Javier Sanchez spoke at Martinsville, Fieldale-Collinsville and Laurel Park middle schools about youth leadership, making good decisions and how important it is to be a part of a group such as CHILL that helps support students in making good decisions, Connelly said.

Seventh- and eighth-graders who were interested in becoming members of JV CHILL submitted applications, and after they were verified as being in good standing with their schools (no suspensions, etc.), they and their parents were invited to attend a meet-and-greet Nov. 19, Connelly said.

More than 160 youths and parents attended, she said. At that event, CHILL members talked about such things as why they are involved in CHILL and how a JV CHILL could help.

While students had team-building activities at the event, parents discussed issues they wanted to learn about and problems their children were having in school, Connelly said. Bullying, cyber-bullying, drugs and alcohol, a desire to have positive peer influence, parental involvement and security in school were among the issues parents identified, she said.

“They wanted to learn more about communication and ways they can work on their relationship with their youth to keep them from getting involved in risky behavior. They have been very excited (about JV CHILL),” Connelly said.

Issues middle schoolers have said they are concerned about include helping the community, marijuana, drinking, bullying and how to deal with peer pressure, Connelly said.

JV CHILL meets the third Monday of each month from 6-7 p.m. at the Frith Center at Patrick Henry Community College. CHILL mentors meet with JV CHILL members during the meetings.

“This is youth development. We let them (JV CHILL members) plan what they want to do,” Connelly said.

While the students are meeting, a “coffee” is held for parents to discuss issues and hear speakers on issues of concern to parents. An average of about 40 parents have attended, Connelly said.

Morgan McCarty, prevention specialist with Piedmont Community Services, is the JV CHILL coordinator at Martinsville Middle School. Bullying is the top concern that both JV CHILL members and parents have identified, she said.

“So far what we have done is create a bulletin board on display in the school cafeteria. It talks about acts of kindness,” McCarty said.

Acts of kindness such as saying hello to someone and picking up litter are encouraged, she said.

Members also plan to put up motivational posters encouraging kindness. They plan to post sticky notes with positive messages on rest room mirrors to help build self-esteem — messages such as, “You are beautiful,” McCarty said.

In the spring, JV CHILL members plan to focus on cyber-bullying, she said, adding that the members will come up with activities on their own.

Members at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School have done bulletin boards against drinking and driving or getting in a motor vehicle with someone who is drinking, said Valerie Blevins, a prevention specialist with Piedmont Community Services and JV CHILL coordinator at F-C.

JV CHILL members at F-C also have done a bulletin board promoting random acts of kindness. They passed out pencils to people they saw being kind, and those people will be recognized on the school’s public address system, Blevins said.

Members also plan to partner with the SPCA on a wet (canned) food drive for cats and dogs at all the middle schools. The members plan to be at the SPCA booth at Fast Track chamber trade show this week and distribute information encouraging people not to smoke around pets and to keep their medicines away from pets, Blevins said.

Some students who did not apply to get in JV CHILL are asking if they still can get in, Blevins said. “They see what pre-teens are doing and they want to be part of it, also. We’re getting great response from parents too,” she said. “Parents are really grateful something is being done with their kids.”

JV CHILL members will help host the annual youth rally, which will be on April 26 at the gym at Patrick Henry Community College, she added.

CHILL was formed in the spring of 2002, according to the organization’s website.


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