Meet Moses

"From Teen Institute, I learned that to support my friends and classmates in making good decisions, my role is not to give advice, but to listen. I learned not to judge people and to check my own biases before I respond to people so that I can be open to listening. I ask questions and try to understand their perspective to help them to see that there are healthier options and that they can make a better decision. 

I’d like more students to participate in Teen Institute and learn to be nonjudgmental and see what ripple effect that could have on our school."


a story of partnership

Franklin County Teen Institute is a program that gives youth the skills and confidence they need to promote wellness and a substance free lifestyle. With encouragement and education, teens can lead by example, positively influence other students’ behavior and encourage healthy decisions when it comes to drinking and drug use. Moses is a graduate of Teen Institute and an exemplary teen leader.  


Moses's story is an example of how United Way prevents substance abuse, supports families and promotes mental health.

Positive connection, empowerment, engagement and community are key aspects of youth well-being. Youth voice and participation are vital to promote any wellness & prevention strategies – we see the greatest success when we focus on what increases youth wellness rather than trying stop negative behaviors. 


Why we need this

Schools and community partners lack clear collaboration around prevention efforts, and often do not engage the students in planning. As a result, students receive many mixed messages from their families, communities and the media, and don’t always make informed choices around substance use.

Local research revealed that of Franklin County teens:

  • 44% say they feel like they do not matter to other people;

  • 22% report being bullied within the past 30 days;
  • 31% drank alcohol and 20% drove with a drinking driver within the past 30 days.


How it Works

Students in Franklin County high schools come together for a week-long training in the summer where they build trust, self confidence, and skills in promoting prevention and wellness. During this week youth and adults work together to guide, support, and educate participants. While at Teen Institute, students create a plan to promote wellness at school, where they receive support from community organizations and Teen Institute advisors. 


Our Role

United Way staff played a vital role in bringing community partners together while coordinating and providing leadership for Teen Institute. United Way of Northwest Vermont continues to provide both financial and staff support.


The results

After Teen Institute, students feel empowered and supported as a result of the experience. Teens who participated said they made strong relationships with other students and staff, and now feel comfortable talking with a trusted adult about friends' substance use or mental health. They feel they can refer friends to community supports inside and outside of school.