Finding Strength in Numbers

After confronting bad news, the good news arrives when you find out you are not alone.

Last month, while I was observing my son and the rest of his Crescenta Valley Soccer Club teammates run, dribble and shoot through practice, I engaged in a conversation, as I usually do, with the parent next to me. He threw me the classic line, “How are you doing?”

I responded, “Fine, at the moment. Call me later tonight, though, and ask me after I have walked through the minefield of another night with a pre-teen.” He laughed.

I went on and enumerated every new challenge I have encountered with my son in the transition from sixth to seventh grade. After I described each character change, he responded, “You’re talking about my son!”

Are they identical twins? No, they are simply regular kids transitioning through pre-adolescence and on the cusp of teenage-hood. It is during this period that massive change occurs in the brain or, as in the poetic words of Dr. Jay Giedd – a noted neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health and expert on the adolescent brain – “brain sculpting” gets underway. Judgment, evaluation and decision-making skills are far from formed. Unfortunately, these changes occur at the same time as when our youth are most susceptible to substance abuse.

In this transition, youth encounter new social situations and academic challenges, which increase stress levels. Simultaneously, they become more aware of the availability of drugs and alcohol. Combine this reality in a young person’s life with other risk factors, such as a history of early aggressive behavior or a lack of parental supervision, and the task confronting parents, teachers and coaches becomes obvious.

One of the major objectives of the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition – CVDAPC – is to help our community and our partners build protective factors through substance abuse prevention and intervention activities. To accomplish this, we need a groundswell of leadership, resources and wisdom.

An example of this occurred last February when CVDAPC leadership met with Rosemont Middle School Principal Cynthia Livingston. After some thoughtful team planning, we quickly implemented the Teen Crisis Assessment (TCA) program.

Financed through a generous grant from L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, the TCA program allows us to connect youth facing substance abuse issues with licensed family therapists to help put them and their families on a positive trajectory.

Although teen substance abuse can appear daunting, protective factors that can foster parent-child bonding, neighborhood attachment, individual self-control and community support for anti-drug use policies can make a profound difference in individual teen lives, as well as for our community.

In the end, that is the best kind of good news.

David Marquez is the executive director of CVDAPC. Reach him at