Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 16, 2013

New group aims to keep kids on right path

NICOLE DOMINIQUE Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — A cleverly named group aimed at giving teenagers opportunities for community involvement pulled off its second event on Saturday.

Getting People Started, or GPS, is a group of parents and volunteers who want the best for local youth. The new organization is sponsored by the Mason Civic Club.

"It's a small community, and kids have the tendency to get in with the wrong crowd," said Rochelle Boone, Mason Civic Club president and the person who started brainstorming alternatives for community children. "We want to redirect that energy into positive things, to give them something to do."

One big thing that brought the group together is the prevalence of drugs in small rural communities.

"Just like in every community, it (drug problems) is out there," Boone said. "We're trying to change the perception of Mason. There are good kids here."

GPS wants to give children a direction to their lives. Events so far have included fun activities and crafts, as well as some education on drugs and the effect they can have on one's life.

The adult volunteers hope to expand from fun to showing the kids what they can do to help out in their homes and communities, as well as show them opportunities for their future.

These opportunities may include cooking classes, job shadowing and a military career day, among other ideas.

The first event, held in March, was a "smashing success" according to Lisa Sieben, another active adult. Music, games and prizes kept 19 young adults involved, and Effingham County Sheriff deputies Darren Feldkamp and Jeff Suckow spoke to them about the effects of drugs.

Adult volunteers distributed surveys about drugs, and discovered that many kids have thought about taking substances. GPS is eager to discover what is appealing about drugs, and what they can do to keep the teenagers on the right path.

"That (survey) confirmed our conviction to help," Sieben said.

Saturday's event was split into age groups. Children ages 8 to 12 played on an inflatable obstacle course and bounce house, competed in Minute to Win It games and made beaded crafts. Teenagers played dodgeball that night. Both groups received a drug education talk.

GPS adults want to send the kids a message of support.

"Drugs are a bad choice," Sieben said. "Every one of us is here. Anyway we can help them with a problem, (we'll do it)."

Community support is also important. Local businesses have contributed money and prizes, and volunteers are always needed.

Several kids involved with GPS have taken on a leadership role in the organization, bringing other teenagers to the events and helping watch the younger children.

Teenagers from all around are invited to participate with GPS.

"You don't have to be a straight-A student to do something with your life," Sieben said. "We know they can do well; they have to know it."

Sue Ann Dyer, another volunteer, agreed.

"They're not out of sight and out of mind," she said. "We're not going to turn anybody away."

Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at nicole.dominique@effinghamdailynews.com.