The youth coalition is planning a free film to promote safe choices

Members of the Empower Youth Coalition, from right, Will Pruitt, Katie Yeager and JoJo Ratz, shoot a video promoting the coalition’s upcoming movie night for teens as Miranda Broomfield, assistant community coordinator for Empower Johnson County, records them. Teens are invited to a free screening of How the Grinch Stole Christmas on December 21 at the Historic Artcraft Theater.

RYAN TRARES | DAILY NEWSPAPER

The pressure to drink, smoke, vape and use other substances is always there for young people.

Messages come from music, film, and other popular culture, as well as from your own classmates, that it’s cool to use. It’s difficult to find activities that fight against this mindset.

A group of local students hope to provide more fun and safer opportunities for the youth.

“We wanted to come together as a community to spend time together and connect, free of negative things – just a positive experience for everyone,” said Will Pruitt, a sophomore at Greenwood Community High School and a member of the Empowered Youth Coalition .

The Empowered Youth Coalition has planned a free teens-only movie night at the Historic Artcraft Theater to give young people a substance-free night out. The organization is sponsoring a screening of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on December 21 at 7:30 p.m. where middle and high school students can enjoy free popcorn, drinks and candy in addition to the film.

Planners hope the event will serve as a celebration of youth in the community making positive decisions, while also letting them know that there is an organization in their community that they truly value and value.

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“It’s great to come together and raise awareness, even for people younger than you. It’s crazy that so many people want to be in this movement,” said Katie Yeager, a freshman at Center Grove High School and a member of the Youth Coalition.

The Empowered Youth Coalition is an operation of Empower Johnson County, a community coalition seeking to empower the Johnson County community to reduce and prevent youth substance abuse through advocacy, education and enforcement.

From encouraging and celebrating the Red Ribbon Week drug prevention campaign each fall to sharing different ways parents can address drug use, the organization is active year-round, working to make the community safer.

Empower Johnson County convened in 2015 and participants planned events in schools and throughout the community to discuss the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drug use. However, the organizers found that the message resonated more with the students when it came from their peers.

“Our coalition, Empower Johnson County, recognizes that if we are to have an impact on youth in our community, we must have youth around the table,” said Miranda Broomfield, associate community coordinator for Empower Johnson County. “We respect the fact that young people know far more about what is going on in their schools and with their peers than we do. As such, Empowered Youth empowers teens to help shape our messages and ensure we have relevant, impactful campaigns for youth in Johnson County.”

The youth coalition was born.

“It’s basically a group of teenagers from every high school in Johnson County where we come together and discuss issues that are common in teen society. We talk about how mental health affects us and how we should do our best to stay away from substances like alcohol and drugs,” Pruitt said.

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For JoJo Ratz, a freshman at Center Grove High School, the coalition was an opportunity to make a difference among her friends and classmates.

“I wanted to help prevent substance and drug use because teenagers at my school participate in all of this and I don’t want them to do that for their safety,” she said. “It helps when teenagers raise their voices and not just hear from adults and older people,” she said.

This is the second year that the Empowered Youth Coalition has sponsored a series of free films in the community – one for families, the other specifically for teenagers.

In planning two separate films, the organizers wanted their message to reach a wider audience. The Family Film was designed to encourage families to spend time together, build bonds and traditions, and encourage parents to talk to their children about healthy choices.

This year’s family film “The Polar Express” was sold out in about three hours.

“I hope that families in our community can come and have a fun and free day with their children. I hope this creates another opportunity for them to connect with their children or grandchildren and open up those lines of communication,” Broomfield said. “I hope this event inspires adults to start conversations with their youth about healthy and positive choices.”

For the teen-focused film, it was a chance to give kids as young as 12 a chance to make memories with their friends in a substance-free way over the winter break.

“Drug use is very common in our community as a whole, especially in high school. I wanted my colleagues to have the best possible help for any mental thing they’re going through,” Pruitt said.

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Taking a stand against drug use can be difficult for teenagers, which is why events like teen movie night are so important, Broomfield said.

“It’s not easy being a teenager in today’s world, but we have an amazing youth in Johnson County and they deserve applause,” she said. “We are also very excited to offer teens a fun, free and safe event where they can share memories with their friends and emphasize that you don’t need substances to have a great time. I hope this event is a bright spot in their winter break.”


WHEN YOU GO

Empowered Youth Vacation Film

What: A free screening of How the Grinch Stole Christmas for middle and high school students ages 12 and up, sponsored by the Empowered Youth Coalition. Complimentary popcorn, soda, and candy are also included.

When: 7:30 p.m. December 21. Doors open at 7.

Where: The Historic Artcraft Theater, 57 N. Main St., Franklin

How to sign up: Although the event is free, registration is required. People can do so at empowerteenmovie.eventbrite.com.

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