Morgan Neal, a junior at Liberty North High School, has been instrumental in creating the FRESH program (Finding Reasons to Exercise Safe Habits) in Liberty. Morgan has been involved a variety of activities through her prevention work. She has traveled to Jefferson City to visit with her state legislators, as well as attend the statewide Speak Hard Youth Conference.
Students participating in FRESH have made written pledges not to use alcohol or drugs, and they are focusing positive peer pressure among local youth to do the same. In addition, the older students in FRESH have begun to mentor younger pupils to demonstrate that they can “fit in” with their peers by making healthy choices.
Prevention is important to Morgan because she recognizes that it is not always a topic people want to talk about. “Parents do not always know how to talk to their teens, or the importance of doing so,” she said.
FRESH students are identified on trading cards similar to baseball cards that show their pictures and list their activities on the back.
“We’re hoping that they view the people on the cards as role models,” Morgan said. “We want to show that they can still have fun without making self-destructive decisions.”
Morgan had heard about similar trading card programs elsewhere. “I thought it might be something we could do in Liberty.” She and 10 of her fellow FRESH participants recently took the idea to kids at Warren Hills Elementary School in a pilot project.
Members of the FRESH group individually targeted the classrooms of third, fourth and fifth graders. The message to the younger pupils is not overtly related to alcohol and drug abuse. “We are trying to focus on identifying right and wrong situations,” she said, and the proper way to react. “Because once you get to high school the consequences of your actions can have a much greater effect on your life.
“We hope that they will want to have their own picture on a trading card,” Morgan said, “and know that the people already on these cards have made good decisions to get them to this point.”
Currently, about 30 students in both of Liberty’s high schools are “card carrying” FRESH peers. “As we grow, we hope to have students in every school involved with FRESH,” Morgan said.