Until last Monday morning, Fredricka Bryant, a 15 year old student at West Gadsden High School, thought she was pretty savvy when it came to computer use. But she didn't know much about computer safety.
"I didn't know that people could find your address and where you live. Older men can pretend that they are girls your age and ask you to meet them at the mall or the movies and you won't know until you get there and they can hurt you," she said.
Bryant and about 100 other students from public and private schools throughout the county attended the 2009 Spring Break Anti-Gang & Abstinence Campaign at Carter-Parramore Academy. The 3-day event is sponsored by Tony Parker Ministries and partners.
In addition to computer safety, students attended workshops on anti-gang awareness and prevention, abstinence education, narcotics identification, choices and consequences and date rape. During lunch, local citizens representing various careers joined the students for informal conversation.
"The idea was that some students will not ask questions during the workshops but if they get the opportunity to interact one on one, they'll say what they're thinking or ask questions," said sponsor Anthony Parker. Some students were in animated conversations with several members of the Florida Highway Patrol who were spread throughout the cafeteria at various tables.
Earlier in the day FHP gave a seatbelt demonstration using dummies in a vehicles.
Trooper Daniel Jones, Cpl. Terrance Chukes and Sgt. Ed Creel had the undivided attention of the students as the vehicle simulated a rollover with the "occupants" getting tossed around and thrown out of the car.
"This just shows what can happen if you're not wearing a seatbelt. You could get killed if you're thrown around inside the car. You have to worry about getting killed if you're thrown out and hit the ground, then you have to worry about a vehicle running over you or the car can roll over you once you've been ejected,” said Jones, who takes the demonstration throughout North Florida.
Bri Bryant, 14, said she was most impressed with the workshop on choices and consequences.
"They talked to us about making good decisions and bad decisions. I will think twice before I do something," she said.
Keldrick Peoples, 16, knows about making bad decisions. He said the reason he is required to attend an alternative school is because of bad decisions. But Peoples is a group leader for the 3-day campaign and said he is working on getting back to his home school. He said he chose to volunteer for the program to show school officials that he is ready for a mainstream school.
Students got to wind down after eating lunch with a mini-concert by the "Edutainers." The group uses positive songs such as "You Can Be What You Wanna Be" and games such as "I am a Queen" and "I am a King" to teach students about careers and how to conduct themselves.
"We talk about abstinence. It's great to wait and save yourself for marriage. We offer what we call 'edutainment' that's entertaining kids through a rhytmic approach," said founder D. Jerome Garrett.
While this is the first spring break campaign, Parker said they will do it again in 2010.
"We had some awesome partners in the Attorney General's Office, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office, Department of Juvenile Justice, A Leap of Faith Global Ministries Inc., Quincy Police Department, On The Move Community Outreach Inc., Reclaim The Land Inc., Refuge House and the Gadsden County School District," he said.