The Orange County Friday Night Live Partnership honored two schools and an advisor in person for the first time in three years at the OCFNLP Chapter Recognition Event, which took place May 13 at the Orange County Department of Education. They were recognized for their efforts of promoting youth leadership while leading alcohol and drug prevention initiatives.
The FNL chapters at Alamitos Intermediate School and Savanna High School were both named recipients of the program’s Chapter Excellence Award.
Catarina Bañales, the FNL advisor at Kennedy High School in La Palma, was presented with the Advisor Excellence Award.
“This event marks the first time we have been able to bring our chapters physically together since prior to the pandemic,” OCDE Coordinator Elke Petras said. “It was great to be back together, and I am thrilled that we were able to recognize the honorees in person.”
The theme for the event was #StrongerTogether. Led by Drum Café North America, which presents a hands-on approach to team building by using music to engage the different FNL club members throughout the county, the students were able to participate in an interactive musical keynote presentation to highlight the event theme.
Administered by OCDE, the Orange County Friday Night Live 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. The partnership is funded by the OC Health Care Agency’s Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Team.
This year’s winners were announced on May 13. Here’s a closer look at each.
Chapter Excellence Award Recipients
Alamitos Intermediate School, Club Live
The Club Live chapter at Alamitos Intermediate School in the Garden Grove Unified School District is new, but mighty. Their advisor, Lisa Nguyen, a former Orange County Friday Night Live staff member, didn’t hesitate to start a chapter at the campus once she was hired as the school counselor this past fall. With her leadership, the chapter took off and completed an enormous amount of prevention activities over the course of the school year.
This Club Live group has a leadership team of five students and averages 20 students at its weekly meetings. Not only did the Alamitos chapter conduct the typical drug prevention activities such as Red Ribbon Week and National Alcohol and Drug Facts Week, they also found creative ways to incorporate substance-use prevention into winter and spring holiday events.
Members from this new chapter also conducted mental health awareness activities and supported their school with campus inclusion and engagement activities by facilitating Lunar New Year and karaoke events. The school administration has taken notice as Club Live has brought forth new leadership opportunities for more students. Members whose voices were quiet before are now louder than ever.
Savanna High School, Friday Night Live
The FNL chapter at Savanna High School in the Anaheim Union High School District has shown tremendous growth this year. After a year of online learning, advisor Veronica Alvarez thought they would have low participation this school year, especially since they couldn’t eat lunch in the classroom when they had their meetings.
However, with the hard work of their cabinet, attendance has doubled. The five student leaders, some who have been a part of FNL for three years, have transformed the FNL program into a powerhouse on campus. Meetings are well organized and engaging, as the student leaders consistently provide opportunities for all members to contribute to the planning and implementation of activities.
Savanna FNL focused its activities on alcohol, vaping and other drug use prevention. They supported their school’s Tobacco Use Prevention Education efforts and have partnered with the nonprofit organization America On Track and other community agencies to provide their chapter members with opportunities to get involved in important community engagement activities.
This year, Savanna FNL felt it was more important than ever to address the mental health of students, so the chapter partnered with a community agency called Waymakers, along with the National Alliance of Mental Illness club and the art department to host a mental health art event. This program engaged more students in prevention efforts, and it also reached a large schoolwide audience.
Advisor Excellence Award Recipient
Catarina Bañales, Kennedy High School
Catarina Bañales is the FNL advisor at Kennedy High School in the Anaheim Union High School District. She was the school’s Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) advisor when she first heard about the FNL program nine years ago. She realized FNL goes hand-in-hand with TUPE and decided to merge the two programs to have an even stronger impact.
The Kennedy FNL program is very active on campus, in the community and online. The chapter also utilizes a YouTube channel where it promotes drug prevention messages.
Bañalesexemplifies the FNL Standards of Practice. She has created a safe place where all students feel welcome and can contribute to the FNL club in meaningful ways. Bañales strongly advocates for the students. She consistently keeps school and district administrators updated with FNL activities by emailing them photos and artifacts so they know about the great achievements of the students. She is their biggest fan.
For more information about the Orange County Friday Night Live Partnership, contact OCDE Coordinator Elke Petras at 714-966-4458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.