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This article originally appeared at Guam Pacific Daily News, http://www.guampdn.com/
Original Publication Date: June 23, 2012. By Lacee A.C. Martinez

It's only been a week since the annual Summer Youth Swimming and Water Safety Program kicked off at the Hagåtña pool and the teens manning its Positive Action component already are reporting good progress.

Members of Youth For Youth LIVE! Guam, in partnership with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse's prevention and training branch, hold the swim camp. A main focus, however, is on Positive Action, a nationally recognized program, which aims to teach and reinforce positive actions demonstrated during daily activities.

By doing so, participants can instill lifelong principles and a philosophy that will lead to positive actions, according to the Positive Action's website.

"We see some kids sharing their snacks," says Fabien Rippel, a 17-year-old teacher in the program.

"Some, right after we're done with the arts and crafts, will come and gather the crayons and markers and help us, rather than us having to tell them."

The teens promote positive behavior among the swim program participants, ranging in age from 5 to 15, Rippel says. Good deeds are encouraged and rewarded with stickers that can be redeemed later for prizes.

"We told them that the more good things they'll do, the more stickers they'll get," Rippel says.

The end goal isn't just claiming a big prize, says Sara Dimla, Mental Health PEACE public information officer. The goal behind the program is to promote a drug-free lifestyle and youth empowerment that goes for both camp teachers and students.

"You can't really tell kids 'don't do drugs,'" she says. "It's not something they'd absorb right away. Through the programs that these guys do, you start off promoting a positive lifestyle, daily habits. From little things it becomes like a ripple effect in being able to become a better person and not be influenced with alcohol and tobacco."

There are 201 kids enrolled in the program, with 35 to 40 youth teachers acting as positive role models for the program. The teens all have received CPR and first-aid training on top of their Positive Action training to prepare for the summer camp, Dimla says. The camp also is broken up into two sessions, dividing the large group in half.

The prevention and training branch's goal is to promote a drug-free existence among the Youth for Youth teens and, in turn, those teens help reach out to the summer students, Dimla says.

The students also will receive pre- and post-assessment surveys to gauge behaviors, thoughts and feelings toward drugs and, surprisingly, the students -- even the youngest ones -- already have an idea of what's out there, Rippel says.

"We've asked them questions about what are some negative things people do that we shouldn't do and some kids said 'marijuana,'" he says. "So they already knew about that and they've said alcohol and beer. They actually knew that, even at a young age."

Youth for Youth also is a nonprofit organization supported by the prevention and training branch, which promotes a drug-free lifestyle at its core.

Rippel is going on his fourth year in the group, which has given him different drug education and training opportunities.

"It's really made an impact on my life," he says. "I don't know what I'd be doing if my friend didn't introduce me to this program."

It's been a strong influence for Marcel Jardeleza, another camp teacher, who has been in Youth for Youth for a year.

"I went to the (Youth for Youth) conference and I got inspired," she said. "Everyone was so cool ... leading drug-free lives but they were still having fun and not getting influenced by peer pressure. I started going to the meetings and now I'm here."