The art of listening
Art show spreads message of prevention and highlights youth voice
Children and teens are used to being the ones told to listen. Listen to your teacher. Listen to your parents. Listen to your mentors. And while adults seek only to help guide youth through the world, sometimes we need to stop telling and start listening ourselves.
One program that is aimed at giving youth a voice is the Art of Prevention Art Contest and Art Show presented by Adapt, which offers addiction, behavioral health and primary health care services to Douglas, Josephine, Coos and Curry counties.
Adapt’s Prevention & Education Program held the seventh annual event April 27 at the Winston Community Center. Students in grades 4 through 12 from 14 Douglas County schools submitted more than 140 pieces of art intended to spread positive prevention messages. Topics included substance abuse, problem gambling, suicide, tobacco use, abusive behavior and violence, bullying and general prevention.
“It gives youth a voice,” said Cati Strempel, prevention program director at Adapt. “We heard for years during a mentoring program that youth felt invisible. They were the ones, basically in the trenches. They were seeing all of these things around them, but adults didn’t understand really the depths of the things they were seeing. And they didn’t have a way to express it.”
Sutherlin High School art teacher Lesley Wheatley said the event allows students to express possible traumas they’ve experienced as well.
“I think it’s really important for them to be a part of the community and to really be positive members of the community,” she added.
One of Wheatley’s students, senior Kiersten Porter, has participated in the Art of Prevention for three years now, winning several top awards. She said it’s important for adults to realize that students are aware of the abuse and prevention issues that swirl around their daily lives.
She believes that the art show and contest also give students a deeper look into the issues that can affect their future.
“Putting all this time into a piece and going through the process of it, helps you realize so much more about each individual struggle,” she said.
We at Douglas County Partners for Student Success have made it our mission to open doors to bright futures for our youth. Whether focusing on careers or post-secondary education, youth need to be directly involved in planning for their futures.
“Supporters like Adapt are helping our youth realize that their voices are valuable and an integral part of the community and the education process,” said Gwen Soderberg-Chase, DCPSS director. “We are here to help guide students, but ultimately, they are the ones choosing to make positive or negative decisions, and focusing on prevention paves a path to healthy and productive futures. We need to take the time to listen to the youth voice and be ready to respond in ways that make a positive difference in their lives.”