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Youth discover personal strengths at workshop


Last updated 7/30/2018 at 2:18pm

FALLBROOK – A group of local youth discovered personal strengths and talents they didn't know they had, at a recent workshop designed to boost the teens' leadership skills.

"It was fun and definitely worth it," said participant Ishmael Guadarrama, age 17. "I learned more about myself and what I can do really well. I also learned how to communicate better."

The surprises came at the third annual Youth Advocacy Leadership Event, also known as Y.A.L.E. Hosted by North Inland Community Prevention at the Fallbrook Community Center, the interactive and often lively program was open to Fallbrook Youth Advocacy Coalition members and other teens in the unincorporated communities of Fallbrook, Bonsall, Rainbow and De Luz.

The youth coalition works to reduce youth access to alcohol and other drugs in the four communities. All are in the Fallbrook Regional Health District, which helps fund the group.

Results from an annual Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey show most people who use drugs start doing so as teenagers. National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded research results also show research- or evidence-based prevention programs involving families, schools, and communities are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction.

Heading off the problems associated with addiction saves lives, saves valuable taxpayer money and reduces drain on emergency services and law enforcement.

Y.A.L.E. participants completed a lengthy online assessment that identified their top five personal strengths out of 34 potential categories. Examples included "achiever," "strategic," "analytical," "adaptability," and "empathy."

Salvador Garcia, a youth development project specialist with the San Diego County Office of Education who headed up the workshop, led the group through a series of activities that highlighted each strength's attributes and ways they can be used to accomplish substance abuse prevention goals.

"Suppose your results show you're competitive, for instance," Garcia explained. "You could use that competitiveness in your group. For example, say you're doing a community assessment – you could 'gamify' it, make it fun, by seeing who can get the most assessments done."

Teens at the workshop said some of the results confirmed personal hunches, but others were nice surprises. Y.A.L.E. participant Yareli Albino, 14, said she was pleased to learn she is a "maximizer."

"That's when you have an idea and you build on that idea to make it better," said Albino. "Another (personal strength) is 'futuristic' – I look a lot into the future. And that actually does describe me because looking into the future and looking at what I can accomplish helps me reach that goal."

Event participants were encouraged to make evidence-based a priority and to use their strengths to carry prevention messages to their peers. Existing coalition members said they will apply their new knowledge to upcoming prevention projects. And two newcomers said they'd decided to become Youth Advocacy Coalition members, so they could do the same.


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