A component of a decade-old San Juan Basin Health Department program that broadly defines teenage well-being is scheduled to get statewide attention next month at the annual conference of the Colorado Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention.Members of the EPIC Team have prepared for attendees at the Oct. 8-9 conference in Denver what they call Photo Voice - a 90-minute PowerPoint presentation combined with a photo exhibit - to illustrate how teens in Bayfield view services available to them. EPIC (Every Pregnancy Is Considered) goes beyond birth control to include broader concerns of teens.
"They're telling the community what's going on or not going on in Bayfield," said Kendra Gallegos Reichle, coordinator of the San Juan Basin Health Department's Dragon Youth Project. "They're not saying that Bayfield is the only community where teens lack services or activities, but they want to spread the word about what it's like to live in a rural area."
So much emphasis on teen well-being today focuses on urban communities, Gallegos Reichle said. The EPIC Team presentation shows how the other half lives. EPIC Team is a part of the health department's broader Dragon Youth Project, a tortured acronym for Developing Real Assets Through Growth Opportunities and Knowledge.
Liz Mora, executive director of the Women's Resource Center in Durango, has seen the Photo Voice presentation.
"Photo Voice really opened my eyes to the needs of Bayfield youth and the distance between Bayfield and Durango," Mora said. "A recreation center of some kind would be a benefit to young people in Bayfield."
Kristin Lance, education program manager at Planned Parenthood, said young people need all the help they can get to make wise decisions.
"Any program that raises the awareness of the problems that today's youths face and what tools, education and resources they need to make healthy and responsible decisions is a good thing," Lance said.
Each of the six EPIC Team members will participate in the presentation of Photo Voice - a visual and narrated commentary about the availability - or lack thereof - of resources in Bayfield and the boredom that tempts teens to experiment with risky activities. Among the photos EPIC members themselves shot:- An arcade at the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio about nine miles away beckons, but lack of transportation puts it out of reach of many young people.
- A teen chugs Captain Morgan rum while participating in Caps, a drinking challenge that involves tossing bottle caps, but also encourages binge consumption of alcohol.
- A park, one of several in Bayfield, is more welcoming to schoolchildren than teens. Why wasn't some of the money that developed the parks spent on activities for them, teens ask.
- A grocery store displays condoms. Teen pregnancy is a big thing in Bayfield, but young people aren't comfortable buying condoms openly because there's a chance word could get back to their parents. The public-health clinic in Durango, where counseling is available, closes at 4:30 p.m. - before students leaving school in Bayfield can get there.
- An empty bench outside the Bayfield Public Library where teens gather to smoke epitomizes the empty lives of young people.
- A portrait of an EPIC member's aunt symbolizes the trusted adult and confidante with whom teens can discuss drug use, sexual activity and alcohol abuse.
The members of the EPIC Team are Katlyn Bemelen, Laurel Bradford, April Quackenbush, Ashley Schwartz, Abril Stubbs and Renita Williams.
In addition to the EPIC Team, the Dragon Youth Project includes:- Girls Circle, a peer support group with chapters in Durango and Bayfield. The goal is to teach adolescent girls self-esteem and self-confidence and give them the ability to avoid risky behavior.
- Reconnecting Youth is for boys and girls and teaches life skills, avoidance of alcohol and drug abuse, and the disadvantages of dropping out of school.
The Colorado Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention supports youth-serving organizations and local communities in addressing adolescent reproductive and sexual health through training, technical assistance and public education.