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Anti-bullying effort gets statewide recognition for WHS seniors

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I keep finding reasons to be wildly optimistic about the next generation of leaders in our communities. 

This week, I had the privilege of listening to six amazing seniors at Wenatchee High School talk about how they outperformed 41 other teams from across the state to win the Substance Abuse Prevention Award from the Department of Social and Health Services.

The six young women — Teresa Mata, Tanya Garnica, Natalia Esquivel, Lupe Lopez, Guadalupe Garnica and Maritza Mendoza — are putting the finishing touches on a fundraising campaign to attend a national leadership workshop in Washington D.C. They're being mentored by Megan Collyer at Together! for Drug Free Youth, a nonprofit organization working to prevent substance abuse of all kinds. The girls are all seniors at Wenatchee High School. 

To win the state award, they put on an anti-bullying program that had the crowd literally on its feet at a substance abuse prevention conference last May. 
They produced a video, wore pink t-shirts proclaimed "Stand Up" to bullying which was their theme, and delivered a skit. At the end of the program, they asked every person in the room who had been bullied to stand up and every person got to their feet. 

"The whole room was chanting," marveled Lopez. She said the theme was an easy one for the six friends who have been working together on substance abuse issues in the community. "We've all been through it (being bullied)," she said.
It was the high energy presentation that the girls felt clinched their state award and the opportunity to be invited to go back to Washington D.C. and meet with other young leaders. 

When I met with the girls this week, they had raised $8,000 of the anticipated $12,000 cost for the trip but thanks to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington and a fund established there by Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, their dream is tantalizingly close to becoming a reality. Parlette handed them a $3,000 check from a special leadership fund she established at the foundation. 

These young women are going places. Every one of them has been accepted to Washington State University and they're planning to pursue such fields as engineering, law, medicine, education and criminal justice. They are focused, determined, devoted to each other and committed to making a difference. 

Now they're only $1,000 or so from reaching their goal to earn a trip to Washington D.C. Anybody interested in helping out is invited to contact Renee Hunter at Together! for Drug Free Youth at 662-7201.