Estacada High School's Above the Influence students plan healthy community activities

by: CONTRIBUTED - In October, Above The Influence and DEFY organized Estacada High School's participation in an 'I Choose' campaign in which students and staff were photographed with white boards on which theyd written what they choose to do instead of drugs.What is there to do besides drugs? Literally anything else.

The students of Estacada High School’s Above the Influence youth coalition spend a great deal of time reminding their peers of that.

“The majority of our students aren’t using any drugs or alcohol,” said Sonja McCarty, Above the Influence adviser and project coordinator of Drug-free

Estacada Families & Youth

(DEFY). “We’re trying to get that message out and do it in very creative ways.”

DEFY collaborates with many sectors of the community to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youths and adults and advises the high school’s Above the Influence club.

The groups operate under the assumption that people are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol when they are bored.

Sarah Wynn, an Estacada High School senior and member of Above the Influence, said drugs have never really been something that she has encountered in her world.

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Estacada High School Seniors Sarah Wynn, left, and Kayla McAulay take a break from planning drug-free activities for their school to smile for the camera. Wynn and McAulay are members of Above The Influence.Wynn and her pals are much more likely to go to the movies, the mall or just hang out ... drug free.

“If you’re looking for things to do, you’ll find things to do,” McCarty said. “But it’s not going to be handed to you. You have to be creative.”

Above the Influence’s modus operandi is, in part, to provide fun, substance-free events for the community and to bestow young people with the tools to come up with ways to stay busy and healthy.

This year, Above the Influence has gone into overdrive planning several large, drug-free events.

The ideas for the events, McCarty said, originate from the Above the Influence students.

McCarty and the group’s faculty adviser help the students organize their thoughts and think through logistics in order to turn the brainstormed ideas into actual events.

Above the Influence kicked off the 2013-14 school year by holding an outdoor screening of “Despicable Me” in the grassy area next to the Estacada Fire Station in August.

Several area businesses, churches and organizations helped out the event with volunteers and donated food and equipment.

About 170 people attended.

During Red Ribbon Week in October, the students participated in an array of drug-prevention activities culminating in a drug-free tailgate party at Estacada High School before the homecoming game.

The National Guard and several local businesses partnered with Above the Influence to put on the event.

Red Ribbon Week is celebrated every October in honor of slain Drug Enforcement Agency agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.

This year, during Red Ribbon Week, students had the opportunity to take part in an “I Choose” campaign.

Participating students wrote on white boards what they choose to do instead of drugs, and then had their photo taken.

Above the Influence hopes to print the photos to hang in the Estacada schools.

In return for participation in the “I Choose” campaign, students were given a Red Ribbon Week T-shirt and were eligible to win a gift card if they wore the shirt to an assembly in which drug-abuse prevention expert Stephanie Siete addressed the students.

The Above the Influence members even have spread the message to younger students in the community.

They have led afterschool classes at Clackamas River and Eagle Creek Elementary as a part of the schools’ Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) programs.

In November, Above the Influence and DEFY had elementary STEAM students decorate and play with hula hoops as they discussed balancing one’s life and how choices “come back around” and have impact in the future.

In February, they showed the students containers of white powders and had them guess at what was inside to illustrate how dangerous it is to make assumptions about unidentified substances.

“It taught us not everything is what it seems,” said Jewel Jones, a fifth-grader at Eagle Creek Elementary.

Though Jones said her parents had already talked with her on the subject, she still appreciates drug-prevention education.

“I think it’s pretty important for kids to know; (drugs) lead to bad things,” she said.

Another STEAM activity is planned for April, but the topic has yet to be determined.

At the moment, the Above the Influence kids are busy making preparations for a V.I.P. prom bus to safely and glamorously transport students to and from prom for the second year in a row.

They also hope to hold a “color war” in May, where students can throw pigments in the Estacada High School Colors at each other.

They still have to hammer out the details, but it’s sure to be a fun and drug-free event.

Want to be Above the Influence?

If you would like to join Estacada High School’s Above the Influence, call Sonja McCarty at 503-201-4198 or send her an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You also may call DEFY Director Susie Tracy at 503-201-2981 or send her email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Want to help create “a thriving community where young people flourish without drugs?”

DEFY meets from 1:30-3 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month in the Flora Room of the Estacada Public Library. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.

For more information on volunteer opportunities and other ways to get involved, call DEFY Director Susie Tracy at 503-201-2981 or send her an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Raynell Flohr at 503-318-1224.

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