Youth Empowerment Program

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Youth Empowerment Program

Davide Scrofano, Writer

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On March 14th, there was a Norco Town Hall meeting presented by UNLOAD (United Norconians for Life Over Alcohol and Drugs), where teenagers had the opportunity to educate themselves on the dangers of alcohol and drugs use, including human trafficking, a major issue effecting Riverside County. Many people came to support the meeting, including Mr. Ibbetson, Mrs. Grundmeyer, and guest speaker Opal Singleton, an expert on human trafficking.


Opal Singleton

Inside there was the line of booths run by different groups invited to come and support the event. “We were lucky to get many organizations to show up in support of our youth meeting. They’re here to inform kids, teens, and even adults about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. These things not only put people in physical danger, but it tears apart families, so it’s important to keep people aware of that,” said Mr. Ibbetson. In fact, one of the organizations who came was Young Brothers Taekwondo. Randy Helsey, a representative of their group, explained that “We have a school in Norco, and we are funded through the Parks and Recreation Department. We were invited to come and talk to teens about positive and healthy activities in place of drugs or alcohol. With any martial arts program or anything in life, it requires you to be involved physically, mentally, and spiritually, and it’s important to surround yourself in a positive environment with positive people. That’s something that we like to stress here.” One of their students, Cody Ward, had this to say about the event: “It’s good to support my instructors and it’s good to talk about the truth of what is going on in the world.”

Informing people about the dangers of drugs and alcohol is important. That was something that was stressed very much at the meeting. Kids, teens, and even adults from all over Norco came eager to learn about the dangers of substance abuse. Mrs. Grundmeyer, the Mayor of Norco and teacher at Norco High, explained that “Students come to get help from experts about the choices they make and the consequences from them. Educating people is the most important thing. Giving them accurate information will help them make accurate decisions. I’m excited about the amount of groups who came who are all giving teens different, more healthy avenues instead of drugs or alcohol.”

Drug overdoses and drunk driving incidents are problems that plague the United States. According to, a website dedicated to drunk driving statistics, around thirty people, every day, in the United States die from drunk driving crashes. Alcohol affects your nervous system; the more alcohol you drink, the more it negatively affects your nervous system. Drug overdoses have also become a rising problem for the US. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Drug overdose deaths involving any opioid―prescription opioids (including methadone), synthetic opioids, and heroin―rose from 18,515 deaths in 2007 to 47,600 deaths in 2017; 68% of deaths occurred among males.” Hopefully, with more education we can prevent future overdoses and drunk driving crashes.













Human trafficking has become a very serious issue that not enough people are talking about. Day in and day, out more and more kids and teens are being trafficked around the country, and more needs to be done about this. According to, “Forced sexual exploitation occurs across the United States. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported call data, 5,591 potential cases of sex trafficking were reported in 2016. These reports referred to the identification of potential victims in hotels/ motels (588), commercial front brothels (559), online (411), in residential areas (367) and in the street (234), and in escort or delivery services (230), among others.” Now, who is to blame? Gangs are mainly to blame. Gangs like the Crips, Bloods, MS-13 and many more are responsible for most human trafficking in the United States as well as online predators. They lure people using social media sites and online gaming like Instagram, Twitter, Kik, and Minecraft and GTA. First, they create a fake profile and groom their victim into thinking that they are who they claim to be. Then, once they have gained their victims trust, they get their victim to meet them in person. Once they finally meet, they snatch them up and take them across the country where they are then sold into the sex slave trade. Two websites that they use to sell their victims are Craigslist and Backpage, however in April of 2018, Backpage was seized by the US government because of all the people who were being sold on the website.

During the entirety of the event, heavy emotions were running through the crowd. Sarah Young, a student at Norco High, had this to say: “I was shocked and impressed by all of the information shared with us. It is shocking that things like human trafficking are going on so close to us. It’s unfortunate that we never really hear about it. It’s also unfortunate that kids can easily be affected by alcoholism and drug addictions and some parents don’t even know!”

The UNLOAD event was an eye opener for many people. The point of it was for people to realize that anyone can become an alcoholic, a drug addict, or become a sex slave on the market if they aren’t careful enough. However, because of education and safe, healthier opportunities, we can help fight all of those problems. Hopefully, within time, we can help to eliminate these diseases that our society continues to face every day.