Teens take hold of NEO way of thinking | TheUnion.com

Teens take hold of NEO way of thinking

A program designed to offer young people a fun alternative to drugs, alcohol and trouble is growing and planning activities for the year.

NEO is a for-youth, by-youth organization, the youth outreach arm of the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County.

With a club at Nevada Union High School and plans for another at Bear River High School, it has caught the attention of the anti-drug coalition in Placer County, said Shelley Rogers of Community Recovery Resources, one of the groups working with NEO.

“It’s all about a new generation of youth feeling empowered to make good choices,” Rogers said. “For them, it’s a new way of thinking and a new way to live without the use of drugs or alcohol.”

The NEO philosophy means young people recognize the pressures they face – but decide not to give into them.

Two years ago, the Drug Free Coalition was approached and asked to deal with problem youth at downtown Grass Valley’s summer street fair.

When teenagers were asked why they thought youth got into trouble and used drugs, they said, “Because there’s nothing to do.”

We came up with the concept of NEO. It’s name comes from the prefix meaning “new.” It’s a new choice, a new way of thinking, a new lifestyle, where we give our youth fun alternatives to boredom, drugs and alcohol, encourage them to be themselves, to be creative and to make their own fun.

Instead of excluding the teenagers from a family event like the street fair, we created a safe, drug-free environment, run by youth, that features young performers, contests and games.

NEO started school clubs to help plan events throughout the year, such as concerts, dances and movie nights.

“Have you ever heard the quote, ‘It takes a village to raise a child?’ Well, I believe that it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part in helping to provide for the youth in our community,” said Grass Valley Blockbuster store manager Sonia Britt, one of the many local business people supporting the program.

Local music is a huge element of NEO. We work with youth performers to develop an original and accepting scene for music, dance, art and leadership.

From June 2008 through August 2009, NEO hosted more than 60 drug-free events, worked with more than 25 performing groups, started a MySpace account and launched a Web site. At the end of the summer, the organizers of the Grass Valley street fair told us that they didn’t have any youth issues any more, and they attributed the change to NEO.

NEO is in the process of applying for a grant that would bring $50,000 into the community to use for youth events.

Through NEO, youth can make a difference in the community and their voices can be heard.

Upcoming events

• Every Friday: NEO Fridays. Wear your NEO shirt to participating stores on any Friday to receive discounts. Businesses offering discounts are listed at NCNEO.com.

• 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26: NEO Concert. See seven bands for $3 at the Park Avenue Alternative High School campus, featuring A Natural Disaster, Sensual Saint, This is Radiation, Creative Chaos, Collective Bounce and more. All ages.

• 1 p.m. Sunday, March 7: BMX Meeting at Miner Moe’s Pizza, 102 Argall Way, Nevada City. Share ideas and suggestions for building a BMX park.

• Contact NEO at lynn@ncneo.com or MySpace.com/ncneo.

Halli Ellis is a Nevada County resident and works with young people at the Lyman Gilmore After School Program.

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