Chris Schaffner delivered a somewhat sobering message Thursday.
“Decisions you make every day in life will have an impact on you in the future,” he told high school students gathered at Illinois Valley Community College. “Whatever you do now, you’re going to carry with you into adulthood.”
Schaffner was one of several speakers at the 33rd annual Teen Showcase to speak about bullying, self esteem, domestic violence, making good choices and more. Schaffner’s presentation, along with Susan Tisdale, focused on the science of substance abuse and illustrated to students how their lifestyles today can affect them as adults.
“There are things we can do along the way that can encourage brain development and there are things we can do along the way that can disrupt brain development,” Schaffner told the filled auditorium. “Drugs and alcohol are two of the fastest ways to disrupt development.”
Schaffner emphasized several ways to reduce the risk of developing substance abuse, including maintaining important relationships; balancing school, work and rest; developing a support network; being a lifelong learner; self care; managing emotions; and working toward supporting each other.
“School is important. But not the most important thing,” said Schaffner, who is a therapist in Peoria. “You are more important. You need play. You need rest. It’s OK to look at your parents and say, ‘I can’t play volleyball tonight. I need a break today.’ You need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night.
“Rest is important. Unstructured downtime is important. Play is important,” he continued. “Here’s why. People who are physically active are more satisfied and less likely to become depressed and abuse substances.”
Schaffner told the students their food choices are important as what they eat can raise or lower serotonin levels in the brain, which helps regulate depression.
He also told students the importance of forming quality relationships and recognizing everyone they come in contact with is fighting a battle they may know nothing about.
“The words that come out of your mouth and the attitudes that come out of your facial expressions really do make a difference,” he said.
Youth Making a Change, a first-year group at Ottawa High School, attended and performed an energizing skit at the beginning of the day-long event.
Kylie Swartz, a sophomore member of the group, said students make posters and positive messages and hang them around the school.
“Our club promotes a positive and healthy lifestyle and focuses on creating a better school environment while being the best version of ourselves,” she said.
Kyra Parrott, anti-drug liaison to the Illinois Valley Alcohol and Drug Coalition, is a teacher at OHS and accompanied the students.
“One of the biggest things they do I’m inspired by is Operation Snowflake … our way of taking fifth-through eighth-graders for a day and teaching them to do good and feel good,” Parrott said. “They are promoting a positive self concept — you feel good about yourself, so you don’t worry about what others think of you.”
Tracie Mazzorana, prevention specialist at North Central Behavioral Health said invitations for the event were sent to schools in Marshall, Putnam, La Salle, Bureau, Livingston and Stark counties.
“We sell out every year,” she said. “We have a waiting list every year.”
The Teen Showcase is co-sponsored by Kohl’s, North Central Behavioral Health Services, La Salle County Health Department, Bureau Putnam County Health Department, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse, Illinois Valley Community Hospital, St. Margaret’s Hospital, Bureau County Sheriff, the city of Spring Valley, Peru Federal Savings Bank, the village of Hennepin and the Radio Group.