Born to be Free
Shasta County Chemical People…
THIS MONTH, Enjoy spoke with Betty Cunningham, executive director of Shasta County Chemical People, about its role in the community and its activities during Substance Abuse Awareness Month.
ENJOY: What is the mission of Shasta County Chemical People?
CUNNINGHAM: The Shasta County Chemical People Inc., Partners for a Drug-Free Community, is a nonprofit organization promoting and supporting the development of a safe, healthy community for youth and their families free from alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse. The organization has been a leader in the prevention field since 1983.
ENJOY: How does this translate, specifically?
CUNNINGHAM: As a community-based movement, the Shasta County Chemical People strives to mitigate the destructive social conditions associated with alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, including school failure, domestic violence, child abuse, adverse childhood experiences, crime, and negative health and mental health outcomes.
ENJOY: What programs are designed to achieve these goals? CUNNINGHAM: Chemical People sponsors a variety of youth development strategies, including Sober Grad, Friday Night Live high school clubs, Club Live middle school clubs, and Peer Mentoring of middle school students by volunteer high school students. Other key efforts include Red Ribbon Week, drug dropoff boxes and community informational and educational opportunities.
ENJOY: Tell us more about Red Ribbon Week.
CUNNINGHAM: Red Ribbon Week is celebrated annually nationwide from October 23-31. Participants wear a symbolic red ribbon to honor the work of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was kidnapped and murdered by drug traffickers in 1985, and to remember others who have fallen in the struggle to keep our youth free of alcohol and other drugs.
ENJOY: What does Shasta County Chemical People have planned for Red Ribbon Week?
CUNNINGHAM: Chemical People has participated in the Sundial Riffle Raffle since its earlier days when it was known as the Ducky Derby. It ends October 23 at the Sundial Bridge and will feature interactive health booths. Chemical People youth will staff a booth and provide educational and informational materials on topics including the impact of marijuana use, underage drinking, fentanyl, tobacco and vaping, and available community resources.
ENJOY: October is also National Substance Abuse Awareness Month. What is the Chemical People’s involvement in school-based activities for this campaign?
CUNNINGHAM: The seven Friday Night Live chapters and seven Club Level chapters on each of their individual campuses will host tabletop displays for the entire school, featuring interactive activities designed to inform and educate their peers on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. Activities include game show questions and answers with prizes, signing Casey’s Pledge pledging to not drink and drive, and fatal vision goggles simulating the effects of underage drinking and driving.
ENJOY: How many students do the Chemical People serve in Shasta County? CUNNINGHAM: We serve more than 3,500 youth each year. The Peer Mentoring program serves 300 youth each year, with approximately 130 high school volunteers and site advisors providing more than 5,000 volunteer training and implementation hours. With Friday Night Live and Club Live, Chemical People serves an additional 150 youth with on-campus activities. Sober Grad events reach students at 10 participating high schools.
ENJOY: What’s the most important thing you want readers to know about Shasta County Chemical People?
CUNNINGHAM: At the foundation of all Chemical People programs is fostering caring, supportive relationships through youth-adult partnerships and peer-to-peer support. Chemical People works with youth to create opportunities for them to make meaningful contributions to improve their health and the health of their peers, their school, their family and their community. •
Shasta County Chemical People www.chemicalpeople.org • (530) 241-5958
Article Written By:
Claudia Mosby is a Redding-based freelance writer. She is the founder and director of The Expressive Spirit, a wellness company in Mt. Shasta offering spiritual direction, arts and nature-based activities and consultancy for grief and loss.