TRACE Helps Students Navigate Challenges

Several years ago, Headmaster Keith Kiser charged the Teens Rising Against Challenges Everyday with an important task: talking to 8th graders in a relaxed way about high school issues they may have experienced in hopes of preventing the same issues for the younger students. The group was more than up to the task and started right away. This year is special. These students, many of whom are graduating in the spring, are incredibly invested in making sure these middle school students feel heard and feel comfortable going into high school so that they don’t succumb to peer pressure or the hurdles of daily teenage life and school.

This year, the members chose topics, did their research, and spoke candidly with the 8th graders in small groups so that it didn’t feel like a lecture. They wanted the students to open up and talk about what may currently be bothering them or what they may anticipate to be an issue in the future. The topics this year included bullying and relationships; anxiety and eating disorders; alcohol and prescription drug abuse; and tobacco and marijuana use. The members of TRACE maintain that just because they are in a small school, it doesn’t make these potential issues go away completely. The best way to combat these issues is to face them before they get started. Additionally, they know that eventually, graduation day will come and they will venture into a world filled with the above problems and they will need to know how to fight against them all and help others in need.

In addition to this important work, the TRACE club also sponsored activities during National Red Ribbon Week in late October. Moderated by faculty members Leigh Berman and Christine Wiethop, the students coordinated various activities and displays to raise awareness about drug and alcohol abuse for both middle and high school students. The group members read information about substance abuse during the daily announcements, distributed red ribbons to households, encouraged students to sign a banner and pledge to be drug free, held a red sock dress down day, created a sidewalk graveyard with the names of individuals who have lost their lives to drug abuse or drunk driving, exchanged baked goods for harmful tobacco and alcohol ads, and gave away bracelets, Frisbees, and lanyards at the home football game. Most impactful were the two guest speakers who spoke to the SJCS community about their previous history of substance abuse and steps into recovery. This allowed students to ask questions and get honest answers about the dangers of drugs and alcohol from individuals who were not much older than our seniors.

We sincerely thank these teens for their hard work and hope to see much more of TRACE in the coming months to continue their efforts to help all of our SJCS students.

For more information about the National Family Partnership that supports TRACE, visit