Recognizing efforts to implement best practices in youth leadership while leading alcohol and drug prevention initiatives, the Orange County Friday Night Live Partnership honored three schools and an advisor at the annual OCFNLP Chapter Recognition Event on May 12 at Chapman University.
More than 300 students, school staff and family members attended the event with the theme “Celebrating the Magic in You.” The gathering included student presentations spotlighting their respective chapters and the work they were able to accomplish this year.
“The night was definitely magical,” OCDE Coordinator Elke Petras said. “Hearing the students share about their experience in the program and the energy in the audience was inspiring.”
The FNL chapters at Hare and Santiago high schools in the Garden Grove Unified School District and Panorama Elementary School from the Orange Unified School District were named the program’s Chapter Excellence Award recipients.
Veronica Alvarez, the FNL advisor at Savanna High School in the Anaheim Union High School District, was presented with the Advisor Excellence Award.
Established in 1992, OCFNLP is led by the Orange County Department of Education with funding from the OC Health Care Agency’s Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Team, or ADEPT. The partnership encourages young people to take the lead on alcohol and drug prevention campaigns at school and in their communities. In doing so, it promotes leadership, communication, team-building and problem-solving.
Programs include Friday Night Live chapters at the high school level, Club Live groups at the middle school level and Friday Night Live Kids in the upper elementary grades.
“This event is special to me because we not only give out the Excellence Awards, but honor all the students and their advisors who are making positive contributions to their school and community,” said Petras.
Here’s a closer look at each of this year’s winners:
Chapter Excellence Award recipients
Hare High School, Friday Night Live
A group of 15 students and their advisor, Tam Do, were credited for showing tremendous strength in demonstrating commitment and dedication to raising awareness about substance abuse prevention with their peers at Hare High School.
Their mission has expanded to the surrounding community, including Zeyen Elementary School, a neighboring campus. Hare’s FNL chapter routinely visits with students from the elementary school, where they conduct prevention activities and are seen as role models.
The chapter has organized several activities to introduce its mission to other students by creating public service announcements and interactive lunch activities. This year, club members invited their peers to take Casey’s Pledge, which asks young people to commit to staying alcohol free or never driving under the influence, and never getting a car with a driver who has been drinking.
Santiago High School, Friday Night Live
Supported by advisor and health teacher Shannon Bennett for the last eleven years, the chapter at Santiago High School continues to be one of the strongest and most consistent FNL clubs.
This chapter is led by nine student officers who welcome an average of 50 students at their weekly meetings. The members advocate for drug prevention initiatives that unite their campus and empower neighboring elementary and middle school campuses to do the same.
To create opportunities for all members to contribute through planning and decision making, the club officers developed a guide for the leaders who will assume their roles next year as they work to build upon the chapter’s legacy.
Panorama Elementary School, Friday Night Live Kids
Under the guidance of advisor Kristin Cowan, more than 30 fourth- through sixth-grade students have become leaders on their campus. The FNL Kids chapter at Panorama Elementary School inspires peers with school-wide presentations and activities to pursue healthy lifestyles and to spread kindness.
The elementary school-aged children invite their parents and families to attend monthly meetings where they provide updates on the progress of their work and reinforce healthier choices and the importance of building a welcoming environment.
Advisor Excellence Award recipient
Veronica Alvarez, Savanna High School
In 2022, Advisor Veronica Alvarez’s FNL club at Savanna High School earned a Chapter Excellence Award for showing tremendous growth during the pandemic, with attendance doubling in size.
“I am the luckiest advisor to be able to work with great members and amazing cabinet leaders,” said Alvarez. “They really are the ones who drive me to work hard.”
With her support as a school counselor and as an advisor for the past eight years, Savanna’s FNL chapter focused its activities on alcohol, vaping and other drug-use prevention campaigns. Students supported their school’s Tobacco Use Prevention Education efforts through a partnership with the nonprofit organization America On Track and other community agencies, providing their chapter members with opportunities to get involved in important community engagement activities.
For more information about the Orange County Friday Night Live Partnership, contact OCDE Coordinator Elke Petras at 714-966-4458 or EPetras@ocde.us.