Help the Hills Student Team
Sponsors: Emily Erwood & Kym Prewitt
Purpose & Mission
Help the Hills Student Team (HTHST) of YLVH is a diverse group of juniors and seniors who pledge to live a positive, healthy lifestyle free from harmful substances (drugs, alcohol and tobacco) and attitudes. Their mission is to mentor younger students in the Vestavia Hills school system by speaking to large groups, leading small groups, and sometimes engaging in one-to-one interaction. These students are selected through an application and interview process based on scholarship, attendance, discipline, interview, teacher recommendations, and character. This organization is officially a segment of the Help the Hills Coalition.
T – Train E – Educate A – Advocate M - Mentor
What is the Help the Hills Coalition?
The Help the Hills Coalition is comprised of community members representing law enforcement officials, healthcare professionals, educators, business leaders, youth, church leaders, and parents. The coalition model leverages the resources of multiple community groups in order to combat underage drug and alcohol use and abuse. HTHST represents youth on the Help the Hills Coalition and works in conjunction with the efforts of the coalition.
Team Members 2018-19
Mauree Alice Porter, Co-Chair Jack Kimbrough, Co-Chair
Julia Claire Armstrong
Mary Ann Carmichael
Sarah Beth Corona
Laura Reed Cunningham
Mae Mae Daniels
Mary Tate DeFore
Sarah Grace Hayes
Lauren Ann Holmes
Mary Hanlon Hunton
Mary Katherine Smyth
Our approach is very specific. We want to remain positive. We want to focus on the number of students who DO NOT drink and to grow that number. We don’t want to be preachy or judgmental. We just want to be a positive example of one way to choose to live life as a teenager. We want to teach them that coping with the stresses of teenage life is easier when you choose not to drink.
One of the first things we did was to create a Speakers Bureau with our seniors. We felt it was important for the community at large to know who we are and why we exist. So we partnered up, wrote a script, and set out to various meetings around the community. We went to a Chamber luncheon, a Board of Education meeting, a City Schools Foundation Board meeting, a Leadership Vestavia Hills board meeting, and many other places to spread the message that we are here to make a positive impact through mentoring and living as an example.
Another, more obvious, item on our list of ideas was to be available as volunteer workers at various activities in the community – especially those activities that had to do with the healthy living message that we stand for. We volunteer at the Community Night Out held at City Hall where we set up a face painting table for kids. We also work as general greeters at all Help the Hills forums and events. Another function that we helped was the 5th Quarter at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church. This was an idea that the churches would provide a safe place for students to go after football games.
In 2018-19, we had opportunities to participate in two events for which we had not planned. Both of these opportunities came through Dr. Burgess who asked us to take the lead. One was a Public Service Announcement contest by Kindervision. We helped create two 30-second PSAs that were submitted to the contest. One was made for middle school students and it was about social media. The other targeted high school students and included many of the HTHST members who in quick little sound-bites stated why they don’t drink. The other project we were given was for a national campaign called “Kick Butts” which is an anti-smoking and vaping campaign co-sponsored by the Children’s Hospital network and the Jefferson County Health Department. We were given $150 to come up with a creative idea using the money. We decided to hold a video contest for both middle school, allowing any middle school student who wants to to create a short anti-smoking video.
1Rebel 8th Grade Party
On September 15, after the Vestavia-Oak Mountain home football game, we kicked off our year with the 8th graders. We decided to start with a really fun party we called the One Rebel 8th Grade Party. We were absolutely blown away by how many 8th graders came. We had well over 300 in our main gym after that game. And they all had a blast getting to mix with the HTHST as well as new faces from the other middle school. We danced and sang and had a great time – NOT drinking. We did not even tell them who we were at the time or what our mission was. We just wanted to start with some good clean fun. As the year went along, we found other opportunities to be with them in just a strictly fun environment. We created a couple of 8th Grade socials through Relay for Life. One was at Skates 280. We want to be familiar faces to these students – not in an “in your face” kind of way.
8th Grade Talks
After that One Rebel party, we launched what we call 8th Grade Talks. We added more juniors and seniors to the team so that we could divide into a Liberty Park Team and a Pizitz Team. We wanted the students to become familiar with us so we thought it was important to go to the same place each time. Plus, we needed to divide and conquer because we didn’t need to be missing that much class ourselves. Scheduling was a challenge. We went in November just to reveal who we are and to make the connection to the One Rebel Party. That was when we told them that we are all different and involved in every activity they could imagine, but we had one thing in common and that was that none of us drinks or smokes or vapes or takes pills or does any kind of drug. We returned to the schools in January, February, and March to talk about academics and our activities and just really getting them ready to be at the high school. We did some of this in small groups during study and we did some of this in a large group in the gym. And sometimes we just hung out with them during lunch.
"WHY I DON'T DRINK" TALK
Our last “Talk” is scheduled for April at both schools. After all this time of establishing who we are and trying to build connections and relationships with these students, this will be the serious talk about how best to deal with the pressures of being a teenager WITHOUT turning to drugs and alcohol to cope. In April, each team will return to their school and a select number of us will be prepared to share our stories of why we don’t drink. It is very important to us that we not preach to them about what they should or should not do . . . but instead, we want to share our own perspective of how we cope and why we make the choices we do. We hope that sharing a variety of personal perspectives will allow them to relate to at least one of them and be inspired to follow that same path.