By Jason KUROSU
On Tuesday, the CV Armenian Community and Youth Center invited a group of panelists to discuss drug use among teenagers and what methods parents may use to foster open lines of communication with their children. The panel of four was represented by members of the Crescenta Valley Drug & Alcohol Prevention Coalition (CVDAPC) and other members of the community who work with youth, including Glendale Police Officer Matt Zakarian, former Crescenta Valley High School principal Linda Evans, current CV teacher Jim Smiley and CVDAPC Vice President Nancy Stone.
Zakarian detailed the inception of CVDAPC and his impression of the community’s drug situation, based on his experience as a police officer, noting that marijuana, prescription medication and alcohol were the three most frequently abused substances in the area, but that heroin usage was not unheard of.
“Every community has a problem with drugs and alcohol. We just tend to do something about it here,” said Zakarian.
Zakarian explained how the coalition was formed four years ago in response to growing concerns over drug abuse and advised that parents continue talking with their children and other members of the community about these issues.
“We want you to spread the word and let people know these resources are available.”
Through years of work at Crescenta Valley High School, Evans and Smiley described their myriad experiences dealing with teenage drug abuse among the student population as well as discussing drug usage with their own children.
Keeping open lines of communication between teens and adults was a common theme throughout the night, falling under what the panel presented as the “40 developmental assets.” Created by the Search Institute, a nonprofit organization geared towards identifying factors for increasing student success, the 40 developmental assets are “building blocks of healthy development that help young people grow up healthy, caring and responsible.”
The assets include various areas believed to contribute to developing a healthy, successful child such as having positive values and a sense of identity, but also other “external assets” like positive influences from peers, family members and other adults. Evans and Smiley believe having such assets will not only keep children steered away from potential drug abuse but also help develop a positive outlook on their future. From handouts of the 40 assets that the audience received, Evans referred to studies that stated that the more assets a child has, the more likely they will succeed in school and refrain from “high-risk behavior.”
“I know I have to take care of my family, but I also have to be willing to look beyond my family and see how I can positively impact the lives of the kid next door,” said Evans. “What can I do to be a resource, a person they can call upon when everything is going south.”
Smiley acknowledged the difficulty parents might have discussing topics such as drugs with their children, relating his own experiences with his son. However, Smiley described the assets as a useful resource in this regard.
“The asset program gives us [parents] tools to talk with our kids about these issues,” said Smiley.
Evans also related that several resources were available at school for teens who were having trouble with addiction or knew someone else who was, including programs such as Smoking Cessation and speaking with a school counselor. Evans was, however, aware of some reservations both students and parents might have about speaking so openly with school counselors, assuring that the counselor operates under strict confidentiality, similar to that of a psychiatrist.
The Armenian Community and Youth Center will also be hosting three classes for parents on Jan. 15, Jan. 22 and Jan. 29, which will deal with the 40 developmental assets.