Kenai Central High School senior Adrianna Garcia is the statewide youth adviser for D.A.R.E. Alaska, Inc.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
How does a high school senior juggle being student body president, a member of the basketball and swim teams and youth adviser for D.A.R.E. Alaska all the while maintaining a good grade in AP Language Arts? The answer, very carefully.
Adrianna Garcia, a student at Kenai Central High School, does all these things and still finds time to read her favorite Shakespearian play. Some students may bite off more than they can chew by being both the student body president and the D.A.R.E. youth adviser for the entire state, but Garcia says one job influences the other and she's able to get more done.
"I run student government meetings and I'm available to invite students to the Alaska summit," she said, adding that she can use student government funds to do D.A.R.E.-related things.
Garcia, like many kids, went through the D.A.R.E. program in the fifth grade. As a student at a private Catholic school, she said the education was eye opening and necessary for kids who are going out into the world. Even though she moved from the suburbs of Detroit to the Kenai Peninsula in 2001, by role playing with the D.A.R.E. officer, she gained the self confidence to withstand peer pressure.
"The personal connection with the police officer is great," she said, adding that the positive effects of the program aren't all drug- and alcohol-related. "It's how the D.A.R.E. officer speaks to you and how you can learn about yourself in the process."
After she graduated from the D.A.R.E. program, Garcia already knew that she wanted to incorporate its teachings into her daily life. With her father, Soldotna Police Officer Tony Garcia, being D.A.R.E. officer for the Soldotna elementary and middle schools as well as resource officer for Soldotna High School, this wasn't difficult.
But when her friend Stevie a girl she'd went to school with, grew up with and played softball with overdosed on a handful of prescription pills, Garcia realized she wanted to do something.
"It had been in the last year when she started to experiment," she said. "I didn't realized it could escalate so fast."
In order for her to become a youth adviser, a position D.A.R.E. began in 2000, she had to fill out a form, telling the board of directors why she wanted to be the youth adviser as well as go through an interview.
Garcia, who had been involved with student government since her freshman year, said her experience with student politics helped her gain the leadership and speaking skills necessary for the youth adviser job.
As youth adviser, Garcia speaks at D.A.R.E. graduations at Anchorage schools and schools here on the Kenai Peninsula, and D.A.R.E. officer graduations as well. She provides a youth perspective at D.A.R.E. board meetings as well as to Governor Sarah Palin and other politicians concerned with drug use in Alaska. As both junior class president and youth adviser, she also initiated the "every 15 minutes" program at KCHS.
"I nominated her for the position," Officer Garcia said. "(Adrianna's) experience as the youth adviser gave her the opportunity to meet the lieutenant governor and the governor and provided her an avenue to share her ideas with people of influence, people who can appropriate funds for various programs."
Exchanging ideas with Governor Palin and Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell may seem daunting to a lot of teenagers, but Garcia says she gets more nervous talking to kids her own age. Student government has made her a stronger leader, but she says because she's going in a much different path than most of her fellow students, it's hard to know if she's getting through to them.
Although she doesn't know what college she wants to go to yet, Garcia dreams of being an obstetrician-gynecologist or a neo-natal surgeon because she is passionate about helping children.
As youth adviser, she sees the biggest challenge facing most students is peer pressure. But she encourages them to remember what they learned in D.A.R.E. and asks them to be as passionate as she is.
"It's not easy to have strength," she said. "I can help them realize they have the power to change the world, one step at a time."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at email@example.com.
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