Cumberland Countians attending the Tennessee Teen Institute are, front row from left, Kenzie Kilgore, Lilly Quinn, Katie Smith, Natalie Stone; and back row, Patrick Barnes Jr. and Brian Reeves.

Cumberland County students joined 490 youth leaders from across the state at the Tennessee Teen Institute held at the University of Tennessee at Martin campus this summer.

Attending the institute from the Crossville area were Kenzie Kilgore, Lilly Quinn, Katie Smith, Natalie Stone, Patrick Barnes Jr. and Brian Reeves.

The Tennessee Teen Institute is a five-day youth leadership and prevention camp sponsored by the Jackson Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. This year marked the 33rd anniversary of the program in Tennessee and the first time Cumberland County Rising, the community’s drug alliance, has organized representation.

The program addresses teen issues including bullying, violence, suicide, teen pregnancy, distracted driving, teen health and substance abuse prevention. The institute lasted five days.

TTI is a peer-led prevention camp designed to provide teen participants with the skills and education necessary to develop and implement alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs in their own communities.

It is a comprehensive program that trains, mobilizes and empowers youth to prevent the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and self-destructive behaviors in themselves and their peers.

TTI prepares students to not only make positive changes, but to be proud advocates of those changes. Students will have the opportunity to grow and learn as individuals while enhancing their leadership abilities.

Because TTI is peer-led, teens are given a unique opportunity to have a “voice” in addressing issues important to them Giving youth some ownership in this type of program is one of the key factors in the success of enforcing a substance-free lifestyle.

The institute was attended by teen leaders, adult advisers and staff representing 45 counties. The participants were prepared to leave motivated not only to make healthy decisions in their own lives, but also have a commitment to work so that others are making healthy decision in their communities.

The mission statement for the TTI program is “To empower Tennessee’s youth to lead by example and take an active role in bringing about positive changes by giving them the skills, knowledge and support they need to make healthy choices, build positive relationships and live substance-free lives.”

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