Teen individuality becomes focus of new organization

High school can be a difficult time for many teenagers, including those in the St. Cloud community. Students may feel pressured to fit in with their classmates, leading some to make decisions they may not feel comfortable with or face the harassment and bullying, among other consequences.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 14.3% of 12th graders have used an illicit drug (excluding marijuana) in the past-year. When taking marijuana into account, the figure rises over 30% among the same group. While these numbers have declined over the past five years, there is still lots of work to be done to educate students on potential risks associated with illicit drugs. Additionally, there is also a need to create prevention methods for those who want to avoid the pressures of their peers.

Nicole Couch and Leah Rubink of St. Cloud are planning a new approach to fight this issue and many others. Their new organization, “I AM” aims at helping students establish their individuality. A teen can become the person they want to be and do not need to feel pressured to conform to what others have in mind for them.

They want I AM to help teens find a passion, healthy relationships, and safety from the pressures of drugs. The nonprofit has the opportunity to serve thousands of students from both of the Saint Cloud high schools, Apollo and Tech, as well as the surrounding communities.

For I AM to live up to its goals and achieve maximum success, a physical location has been discussed. The space could be one where teens could feel comfortable being themselves without the fears of being judged by others. Couch described the ideal I AM location in an interview with the Saint Cloud Times earlier this month as, “a place for video games, homework, tutoring, socializing, maybe even counseling and referrals to existing resources.”

One of the main goals is to utilize prevention strategies. By supplying new things for teens to put their energy towards, they will be more likely to avoid negative behavior and make better long term choices. This is why ideas like introducing arts programs, using yoga for stress relief and other prevention strategies have been suggested.

St. Cloud State students will potentially play a role in I AM’s mission. The organization will be implementing a mentoring system and could provide great opportunities for SCSU students to be role models for high school students.

“The organizational system of [the mentoring program] is still in the works. SCSU students would be encouraged to mentor once we have more solidified [information],” Couch said.

Leadership experiences like these are often valuable resume builders and will likely attract some attention while giving college students an opportunity to make a difference in their community.

To help with kicking off the organization, Couch and Rubink are holding their first I AM fundraiser on February 18th from 6pm to 12am at Courtyard Marriott hotel in downtown St. Cloud. The fundraiser gives the organization a chance to raise the funding they need to register as a non-profit and obtain their 501c3.

Much of the supplies, silent auction prizes and venue were donated from area businesses. The semi-formal event is for ages 21+ only as there will be a cash bar. Live music performances from Courtside and Nathan Butler will also be at the event. Tickets are $30 each with discount rates available for buying in groups. More information on the event can be found at the I AM Facebook page.


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Bailey Cossairt

Bailey is a senior at St. Cloud State University pursuing a B.S. in Marketing with an emphasis on Digital Marketing. He is known to hold overly high expectations for the Minnesota Vikings each season.

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