TRAIL Teens: Stakeholders in the future of Cabarrus County
The Health Initiatives department at Cabarrus Health Alliance has had a rich history of working with teens through TRAIL, a positive youth development program. The TRAIL program, created nearly ten years ago, began as an HIV/AIDS peer education project and recently gained national acclaim through being chosen as one of only twenty-six demonstration projects in the entire nation. It has since emerged as an intensive mentoring program that utilizes the Search Institutes asset building approach to improve the lives of teens in our community.
An essential piece of the TRAIL program is using high school students as mentors. Teens are nominated by school administration and represent several high schools in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. They are then extensively trained to educate at-risk middle school students in the areas of HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy prevention. Additionally, these high school leaders are given numerous opportunities to positively impact the middle school students through a mentoring program that includes academic tutoring, goal setting, leadership skills, sexual decision-making, and values.
TRAIL Teens contribute to the local community by organizing a service project that is meaningful to them. In years past, the youth have organized several projects, including a Kick Butts 5K (to prevent tobacco use) and a "Hands on the Wheel" campaign (to prevent texting and driving). This service project will assist the teens -- the stakeholders in the future of Cabarrus County -- as they work to build stronger communities and strengthen community bonds.
When youth are knowledgeable about the needs of their city and are civically engaged, it is likely they will remain connected to the community as they grow: starting a business, running for office, participating in local boards, or otherwise supporting their local economy.
It is not just the local community that benefits; the youth themselves profit as well. The youth who serve on TRAIL gain valuable leadership and advocacy skills and are able to apply them in their local community and future careers. With talented young adults residing in our area, our community's outlook is bright and full of hope.