COA Thriving Alive in 2020
Project Pandemic Override By Nicole De Santos
The start of the new decade was intended to be a year with such high regards and expectations to fulfill new objectives and goals. With the Coronavirus, or, COVID-19, impacting and altering the lives of various communities, society had no choice but to attempt to adapt to circumstance and thrive regardless.
As former president, now vice-president of the Community Outreach Alliance club at my school, San Clemente High School, I can proudly say 2020 was a great success, despite the unprecedented pandemic.
Despite the dividing circumstances, the COA and corresponding groups at San Clemente High School have been adamant in creating a community that prioritizes mental health, spreading awareness and education on the topics of drug and alcohol abuse. These efforts have made for the creation of a true family within the community - a place of education, a place of comfort, a place of non-judgement, a place where diverse individuals are able to confide in like-minded individuals. Overall, the organization continues to spread kindness and generosity throughout the unprecedented pandemic plaguing our country and world. I can say with conviction, these traits existed far before the beginning of the pandemic, and will continue when it has ceased.
Left to Right: Roberto Caudillo, Daniel Flores, Joshua McDonald, Brendan Byrne, Trang Pham, Nicole De Santos, Rosa Calendron, Nancy and Ashley Frutis, Abby Succi, Jordan Fisher, Mark Julian, Paula Guiterrez
The First Months of the New Decade
Over winter break just before the beginning of 2020 the COA Club hosted the ‘Mission Viejo Ice Rink Party’ to celebrate. In addition to recruiting over 85 new SCHS student members, Luke Gianelli, the COA lead intern and former club-member stepped up to help be a mentor and actively help run the club. Plus, Mr. Stephens, the high school tennis coach lent us his classroom for club meetings and biweekly discussions. With such a high attendance, the members of the COA club created make-shift business cards using guitar pics aiming to grab more attention from musicians as well as from other organizations or companies at events.
Considering the successful attempts to reach out to more musicians, the Baha'i Center in San Clemente agreed to lend us their auditorium for Open Mic Nights for music-oriented teens. The coordinator and consistent volunteer, Joanie Angelie, doesn’t love hosting these events just because she’s a lover of music and the way it brings people together. These events are the crux of the COA’s mission, to impact the lives of the individuals in attendance. COA Entertainment was a branch of Community Outreach Alliance that was meant for teens who participated in the entertainment/musical industry. Luke Gianelli would host, amuse and entertain the audience with his comedy and improv acts. As a result of the Baha'i Center allowing much space for our event, the student council was able to fundraise by way of a bake sale.
Monday Nights became a hang out. Teens were choosing music lessons and volunteering to help at the Food Connection where food is shared with love and respect for those who come for assistance. It is our intention that they receive not only food for their physical hunger, but generous portions of kindness and grace to feed their spiritual and emotional hunger also.
During the pre-COVID era, COA held many activities and events in collaboration with the Wellness & Prevention Center, NCADD, Waymakers, and other similar organizations who started collective impacts. The most memorable event was the Mission Viejo, Oso Fitness where we had various members from the high school and volunteers along with our new mascot Smokey the pig in a 5k run (many COA participants ran and earned medals).
The National Anthem was presented by Grace Meredith a COA Outreach Performer at the Oso Fit event thanks to collaboration with the City of Mission Viejo, CA - Local Government to bring Thrive Alive MV to their community.
We were kicking off Thrive Alive Mission Viejo alongside our new sponsors from Drop Top Company & The Legacy Project. With Boardmember Taylor Reichelt and Luke Gianelli (shown below), Thrive Alive was emerging to bring healthy teens together and commemorate their healthy lifestyle. Thrive Alive’s activities had typically taken place in the Baha'i Center; however, Mission Viejo Life center granted us the space to use for this event.
Because of the success and efforts of Thrive Alive, many organizations wanted to help fulfill COA's mission of encouraging young adults and teens to be drug-free and develop good habits. Members from COA also planned to open small, student-taught classes such as chess and art. In fact, Mission Viejo planned to collaborate with COA to grant easier access to recreation facilities and live performances at the Kaleidoscope. In addition, a COA Club bonfire was planned at Capistrano Beach; but was canceled due to the pandemic.
We were fortunate enough to participate in the High 5 4Fitness event hosted by The Noble Path Foundation on March 7th just before everything closed down for in person events.. With COA Outreach Performers and student volunteers at the event, the message of being drug-free and encouraging mental health was well received and many parents signed up to get involved.
The Start of the Pandemic
With the successful events, The COA and Thrive alive were set for a boundless year, headway was being made toward attaining attention. With the unpredictable effects and precautions of pandemic in March, many of the expected events were unable to occur on the date they were previously planned, but instead of cancelling, everything is merely on hold.
In the spirit of staying above the influence of drugs and alcohol to Thrive Alive, the COA Club decided to create “Project Pandemic Override (PPO) to help combat boredom and ensure teens were able to live a healthy lifestyle. Every council member and club volunteer who wanted to help went through leadership training provided by our partners from Waymakers. The PPO learned how to instruct each class that was offered. There were various musical classes and improv, cooking and baking, gaming, and art. In addition, between intermissions, many organizations were able to give small sessions on mental health and teen alcohol and drug use. PPO started in April and lasted until July where a new student council was formed for the upcoming school year. Many teens were able to ‘escape’ reality and join a class and have a good time.
During PPO Art the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce reached out to the COA Club to create promotional signs to encourage #SCStayStrong ~ Annelise Becker received an honorable mention.
Despite the circumstances, Nancy Frutis, a 2020 graduate from San Clemente High School, played a huge role in the COA Club Instagram. As the head social media manager of coa_clubbin, she comforted and updated her peers and other viewers of Instagram by posting stories and other relevant information to create ease during the uncertain time. She also raised awareness about PPO. The Exchange Club honored Nancy and the original COA Club president Steven Flores, also a 2020 graduate, with a grant for their efforts in being strong youth addiction prevention leaders.
Nancy Frutis & Steven Flores
The Summer of 2020
The trend of most events being virtual started to rise in the organization; the COA club held its annual Summer Kickoff on Zoom! Many students in the Capistrano Unified School District were able to join the party. Thanks to our sponsor Lisa Newell from Farmers Insurance, many participants received a local food delivery to help small businesses with take out. The participants played jackbox games, enjoyed live music and laughed alongside comedian Adam Grabowski about being a teen in 2020. There were giveaways, laughter, a sense of togetherness, and not a frowning face in the room. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the South County Collective Impact and the Orange County Health Care Agency our summer was off to a great start!
After months indoors on zoom, we were finally able to opt outside, exercise and practice a healthier lifestyle.
Mike Russel was the lead instructor for weekly bike riding. Salomon and Jeremiah Aquino along with Liam Horne were the most prominent bikers from our Club!
Chad Schiel, our Fishing mentor helped us cast our cares and catch some fish throughout the summer thanks to a grant from the Exchange Club and volunteers in the recovery industry.
“It’s absolutely amazing young teens are choosing a healthy physical and mental state with the support from our community.” Chad Schiel
When the new school year began online, the COA Club knew how important it was to keep their momentum going. New president, Mia Arwine brought in many new ideas for the school year. She considered a beach cleanup inspired by the Wellness and Prevention Center, a notable partner of COA. By meeting at the San Clemente pier every other Saturday during the first months of school, teens not only helped the environment, they learned the importance of working together.
Now that many more teens, including the National Charity League, were reaching out for volunteer opportunities, the COA Food Connection became a comforting place to earn community service hours. In addition to learning leadership skills and communication, COA was able to help over 100 people at every food and clothing giveaway. Many of the young volunteers aimed to make a difference in the community. We were very excited when the COA Food Connection at the Baha’i was highlighted in the San Clemente Journal.
Hannah Harsey, Taylor Reichelt, Steve Bartock
The First School Semester to Now
Even though 2020 was a different way of life, the Community Outreach Alliance has continued to progress in its efforts to help us teens and young adults stay above the influence of drugs and alcohol through positive activities and education. The COA Club student council attended various events and partnerships to help mental health during COVID. From continuing to post updates about school and planning events and creating graphics, the team has done a miraculous job.
In addition to beach cleanups teens attended zoom seminars, such as Youth Trending Drugs Focus Group, Together 4Teens and Find Your Anchor to create personalized boxes for those struggling with mental health (especially over the holidays) with the Wellness & Prevention Center. All in all, 2020 proved with interaction, help from adult mentors and opportunities to choose healthy activities teens were able to succeed as well as feel comfort and fun.
Being a part of Connect-OC was one of the best opportunities as the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence gave COA a booth at the conference where many of our Transitional Age Youth were able to network with like minded agencies.
David Quach from the COA Club Board created the zoom conference room alongside Connect-OC
COA Entertainment was not able to perform in public spaces; thus, developing a virtual open mic night via Instagram. Similar to the in-person open mic nights, musicians were able to perform from home on a social platform. Similarly, the COA Club continued to reach out to its audience by posting positive mental health habits, promoting COA events, and updates for San Clemente High School and the pandemic. Over the holidays, our talented musicians performed not only via Instagram live, but also at the San Clemente Outlets.
(From Left Top) HOST: Sydney Noelle BAND:French Park: Charlotte La Rue, Wyatt Beckley, Thomas Muri, Lance Evensen SOLO PERFORMERS: Corey Angeli, Jessica Peck, Lily Benjamin, Mia Arnwine, Cara Sanchez, Sabrina Rose BAND: Shorebreak: Davis Rogers, Alex Hartman, Makenna James, Ethan Quintanar SOLO PERFORMERS:Michael Keith, Ava Moaddeli ,COA Banner Leah Leite, Avery Brostrom Outlets at San Clemente COA Community Outreach Alliance Performers
As we enter the new year we plan on continuing to work with our mentors and resources in prevention and especially recovery to learn what it takes to Thrive Alive no matter what comes your way... including a pandemic.
Mia Arwine & David Quach
Thrive Alive graduates Ashlyn and Jaydyn McGinley
Shout out to DropTop for donating 10% of their monthly proceeds to Thrive Alive since November 2019, AND for designing Thrive Alive t-shirts which are available on their website - all proceeds from Thrive Alive shirt sales will be given right back to us. We are very grateful for Drop Top Company, their mission, and for helping us stay above the influence and find better ways to Thrive ALIVE.