The future is bright for students who make healthy choices | SummitDaily.com

The future is bright for students who make healthy choices

Itzel Delgado, a Summit High School senior, hopes other students make smart decisions about alcohol and marijuana

By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Healthy Futures Initiative

After overcoming many challenges associated with dyslexia as a child, Itzel Delgado gained a perspective on life that has shaped her beliefs and actions as a teenager.

The 17-year-old Summit High School senior pushes herself to excel at a high level academically, but she's also spending time volunteering to help her peers understand the dangers of using drugs and alcohol while their brains are still developing.

She's part of the Keep it 21 Club that focuses on prevention, the Youth Empowerment Society of Summit (YESS) Youth Coalition — which has a mission to empower young people to build confidence and skills in order to take control of their future choices — and has several academic achievements. She attributes this to her hard work, and also to the fact that she doesn't use alcohol or drugs.

"I've grown up in Summit County and I saw the transition when marijuana was legalized — I saw a change in the way my peers talked about it. 'It's legal, so it shouldn't be a problem,' — that's the attitude," Delgado said. "A lot of my friends do smoke and use alcohol and I've noticed the effects it has on their personal life, social life, the way they think about the future and about themselves."

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Overcoming peer pressure
Sometimes other teenagers might turn up the peer pressure if others refuse marijuana, alcohol or other drugs. Delgado said she overcomes the pressure by sticking to her beliefs.

"I've always had a very strong point of view related to that," she said. "If someone makes fun of me, I explain why I'm not doing it and it helps a lot — people are open to what I have to say."

The 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado survey reports that 38.6 percent of students in the region that includes Summit County have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime. For seniors, that number is 50.1 percent. For those who haven't tried it, Delgado said peers sometimes wonder why.

"People want to fit in. It's hard to say no when it's so common," she said. "Being involved in these prevention clubs has helped me understand that you don't have to do those things to fit in."

Delgado said adults have an opportunity to help kids overcome peer pressure. She recommends adults talk to kids about these issues just like they'd talk to them about any other topic.

"Don't create unnecessary tension," she said. "It shouldn't be something hard to approach. If you're trying to be too funny or too serious about it, it takes away from what you are trying to achieve."

Following her dreams
With a clear, substance-free mind and a strong belief in making healthy choices, Delgado has important things to focus her attention on. She's part of the Pre-Collegiate program at Summit High School and has already been accepted into the University of Colorado at Boulder. She's proud of that, as well as the graphic design work she's been doing.

"If you have goals and priorities — that's something that really helps when you're facing any peer pressure," she said. "I'm really interested in art and business, and I'd like to take my artistic talents and turn them into something useful."

Her work with Communities That Care, or CTC, reinforces these goals. The model of that program is to help communities prevent youth problems before they start.

"We've also been talking about mental health projects and we have goals to become a group here in Summit where youth can come if they need help with anything," Delgado said. "And other organizations who want input from the youth perspective, we can help them with projects or offer our perspective."

By believing in her own potential and focusing on academics and other extra-curricular activities, Delgado said she has no regrets for not getting involved with alcohol or drugs. She isn't missing out on anything, but she knows what she could be missing had she gone down that path.

"If you're using marijuana, you might be able to slip by if no one finds out about it, but there's always that potential of doing something stupid," she said. "You're not only ruining your body, but you could be ruining your chances of doing something you love like sports, getting into college, or getting the job you want."

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