A small but growing group of students at Liberty High School are determined to set positive examples for their peers and younger students. It may seem to be a daunting goal at first glance, but with all the various pressures facing adolescents these days, it’s important that kids have a place of stability, which can be a group of high-schoolers who are always evaluating their choices and striving to make the smart ones.

That’s the vision held by Hannah Schrag, an 18-year-old senior at Liberty High School and current president of FRESH (Finding Reasons to Exercise Safe Habits), a group whose members are determined to set positive examples for their peers and to mentor younger students as well.

“I had already noticed that there were drug and alcohol problems among members of my class that mirrored those across the board in our society,” Hannah said. “At the beginning of the school year some of my friends got involved with FRESH and encouraged me to join.” She was also influenced by Liberty High School’s FRESH faculty sponsor, Nikki Junco, a counselor at the school.

“The problems that I see are really more of a peer pressure kind of thing,” Hannah observed. “One kid will do something and entice others into questionable behavior. ‘Nothing serious may have happened to so-and-so,’ they might say. So they’ll do it again. And then again. They keep on following the leader and eventually it can become an issue.”

Hannah is looking forward to an assembly this spring that she believes will be organized by FRESH members. “The overall subject will be on mental health and deal with anxiety and depression,” a growing problem for many youths. “I think it will give FRESH greater visibility.”

Recently, FRESH members distributed flyers in racks positioned in lavatory stalls. “We’ll have a monthly series,” she explained, “first dealing with caffeine addiction. Then we’ll take on the subjects of anxiety and stress we feel leading up to college entrance tests. Finally, we will take on alcohol and drug issues.”

In early April, Liberty High School FRESH members went to Lillian Schumacher Elementary School to talk with the kids and present themselves as role models, Hannah said. “We are typical kids and we want to show younger students that you can still be accepted by your peers without having to do drugs and alcohol. We want to show them that it’s cool to make safe choices.”

Ms. Junco said that the FRESH students presented lessons on how to combat bullying to four 4th grade classes at Schumacher Elementary. “This is the first year that I’ve taken on the FRESH program, so it’s sort of a process year of getting re-started,” she said. “It should really grow in the next few school years as we add programs and bring in more guest speakers.”

One way that FRESH members illustrate that “it’s cool to make safe choices” is by distributing FRESH trading cards, which are similar to baseball cards with a picture of the student on one side and a description of his or her activities on the back.

“Not everyone gets a card right off the bat,” Ms. Junco remarked. “A student needs to be active in FRESH for one full semester before qualifying to have a card. We created a really cool poster featuring all of our FRESH members as an incentive for others to get involved.”

“All of us in the FRESH Club are involved in other activities,” Hannah said. “For example, I’m in the Key Club, the National Honor Society and I am a swimmer. Our pictures are of us doing the things we like to do. So we’ll have a supply of cards that we will then pass out to the elementary kids while we are doing activities with them.”

Collect ‘em all!