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LB AWARE promotes substance-free fun for students

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Long Beach AWARE, a local organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse among young people, recently hosted its annual Teen Nite Out and Tween Nite Out events.

Teens and tweens in the Long Beach School District enjoyed two nights of safe, substance-free fun. Tween Nite Out, held at the Long Beach Ice Arena on March 22, featured games, free skating, a GaGa pit, a DJ and snacks for middle school-aged students. More than 230 students in grades six through eight came through and had a blast, said Judi Vining, executive director of LB AWARE.

Teen Nite Out was held at Long Beach High School on April 12, where students in grades nine through twelve played bubble soccer, pilo hockey, video games, sang karaoke, swam and ate food provided by local eateries. More than 450 students attended, Vining added.

The Long Beach Auxiliary Police Department picked up food from the 59 participating merchants that donated food and delivered it to the high school, where volunteers at four stations around the school kept up a continuous “dishing out” of food from 6 p.m. to midnight, Vining said. School employees and parents provided assistance, as well.

Both events were funded through a grant from the Silvian Foundation provided to LB AWARE, Vining said.

Additionally, Sgt. Carrissa Giardino, of the National Guard, attended Teen Nite Out to conduct a voluntary, anonymous community mapping survey where students were invited to mark locations where they felt safe or unsafe with stickers on a large map of Long Beach.

The National Guard mapping survey does not only address concerns about alcohol and other drugs, but also physical and emotional “safe places,” Vining explained. Students were also invited to explain why they felt safe or unsafe in specific areas they pointed out.

The results would be combined with a similar survey completed by adults over the summer, she added. The responses would be evaluated and shared with the organization, which would share them with the community along with other survey data to provide a complete, data-driven picture of the community.

“This was our best Teen Nite Out so far — we had approximately 450 high school students having so much fun, the feedback was all positive, the schools, city and community all came together to provide an incredible substance-free event for our youth,” Vining said. “This collaboration is what makes Long Beach AWARE both successful and proud! Our kids were amazing — polite, cleaned up after themselves, kept saying ‘thank you,’ and we love being able to show off our wonderful youth.”