Two weekends ago, two Promoting Health Among Teens (PHAT) Peer Educators (PE’s) Jonas Noomah and Sierra Moskios accompanied PHAT Program Manager, Anna Meredith to the 2013 Bering Strait School District’s Youth Leadership Conference in Unalakleet, AK. Approximately 45 Inupiaq and Yupik youth leaders attended from villages all around the Seward Peninsula such as: Brevig Mission, Little Diomede, Elim, Gambell, Golovin, Koyuk, Savoonga, Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, St. Michael, Stebbins, Teller, Wales, and White Mountain. You can see a map of these villages here-

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PHAT PE’s from Alaska Youth Advocates in Anchorage also joined our Homer PHAT team in attending this conference. Judy and Preston from Anchorage did a presentation to the youth leaders on building health relationships. In this they identified the need for strong communication skills in order to build and sustain healthy relationships. Also, they introduced the cycle of violence as a way to recognize the signs of violence and to help youth leaders understand that anytime is a good time to intervene to stop violence from happening. Become a Green Dot!

Homer PE’s, Jonas and Sierra presented on Substance Abuse and Bullying. For the substance abuse presentation, they highlighted the important information about how severely substances affect adolescent brain development as compared to adults who use substances. Sierra used the metaphor of your frontal lobe being similar to boiling water when substances are introduced to the teen brain. Development is stunted and addiction is much more prone in the adolescent brain.

For the bullying presentation, the PE’s went over ways to recognize bullying, intervention techniques, and focused on building leadership skills. There are many types of bullying that were covered and the main take home message was as youth leaders, it’s important to become an upstander, rather than a bystander when you see someone being bullied in your village. Make a difference, become the change.

Overall, great times were had by all in attendance for this three day conference. Unalakleet was a really sweet town right on the Norton Sound. PE’s found some time to beach comb and enjoyed exploring. Thanks to all the Unalakleet locals for hosting all of us – we really appreciated spending time in the bush with all the inspiring young people we met!