Local teens step up to be county role models

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

Today’s teens are poised to become tomorrow’s leaders, and Friday students from each of the county’s six high schools were given a “game plan” to do just that – “to be leaders.”

Those attending were part of each school’s newly organized Peer Helpers groups.

Andalusia High School began the program three years ago and the remaining schools have just followed suit.

Established by the Covington County Children’s Policy Council Coalition, Peer Helper groups are composed of students in grades nine through 12, who act as role models by encouraging others to seek help, providing opportunities for common issues such as alcohol and substance abuse and emotional support for their peers through mediations.

Their mission comes hand in hand with that of the CPC, said Executive Director Susan Short.

Short said her organization was funded by a five-year, $650,000 federal grant.

“During the spring, the students will go to the middle schools and will speak to sixth, seventh and eighth graders about peer helpers and why they have chosen to be alcohol and drug free,” she said. “They must sign a contract pledging to remain drug and alcohol free, maintain good grades and be leaders and role models among their peers.”

Friday, the newly established groups from Red Level, Straughn, Opp, Pleasant Home and Florala were given instructions on how to fulfill their contract as a Peer Helper during a leadership workshop held at Andalusia city hall.

Speakers included, Barbara Nichols, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, Speaker of the House Seth Hammett and Senator Jimmy Holley.

In addition, the groups received a motivational speech from District Judge Frank “Trippy” McGuire.

McGuire encouraged the group by sharing the art of leadership his high school football coach shared with him.

He told the students that leadership could be summed up in one word, “character.”

“All true leaders in American history had character,” McGuire said. “Any American who has made any real impact, you will see a person of honor.”

He said honor was once a trait held in high value, but now it is almost extinct, and encouraged the students to have courage.

“Courage is doing what is right, even if you’re scared,” McGuire said. “Leadership is being honest, having courage and character.”

Some 85 students and 10 teachers attended the workshop.