Over the years I've written about a wonderful organization convincing young teens to essentially make better choices called Teen Esteem.

Their message of empowering, equipping and educating teens, parents and community members has been heard at not only Monte Vista, San Ramon Valley High and in middles schools in Alamo, but all over the Tri-Valley and in organizations such as the Soroptomists and Kiwanis. They've spread the word that teens need to know how to recognize and reject risky behavior, which can lead to a lifetime of sad consequences. Last spring Teen Esteem kicked off "YOUR Choice! Assembly," which reached 1,200 students, and I'm told 50 percent wrote in afterward that the assembly was "life-changing."

Last fall, Teen Esteem invited Bethany Hamilton, the "soul surfer" who lost her arm in a shark attack, to talk to teens in the Bay Area about finding something they are passionate about and making good choices. Teen Esteem programs and speakers who canvas the county with the message of having self-worth would not be possible if not for the generosity of community members. I spoke with Heather Small, Teen Esteem's development director, and she told me the organization just received two new grants, one from Quest Foundation and the other from Wells Fargo Bank, along with generous donations from the community.


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"We are super-excited by these community grants, as they allow us to offer the 'YOUR Choice! Assembly' at a discount to local high schools," said Heather, who said the public is invited to their Parent Education event Feb. 3 at San Ramon's California High School. On Feb. 4, the assembly will be held for the student body. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Teen Esteem, and they are excited about what the future holds for the community. The group was started in 1994 by Danville resident Linda Turnbull, who found it troublesome then and still that, "Our youth are falling prey to the lure of high-risk behaviors by not understanding the impact those choices can have on their goals and dreams," as stated in an email to me.

When I spoke with the founder and executive director, she told me she is grateful for the contributions, which enable the program to continue getting their message heard. She and Heather told me the Quest funds will help provide for the core program of classroom presentations and the Wells Fargo funds will help get the "YOUR Choice! Assembly" in the Livermore schools, which will reach between 4,000 to 6,000 students and their families.

"This positive message will reinforce the ninth-grade health curriculum of equipping youth to make courageous, healthy choices guided by respect for self and others," as stated in the email.

Also on Feb. 8, Teen Esteem will be a featured speaker at the Soroptimist "She's All That" conference for fifth- to eighth-graders held at San Ramon Valley High School. Register at http://www.soroptimist-sr.org/index.php/signature-project. Teen Esteem will also be at San Ramon Valley PTA "Parenting and Beyond!" conference on March 8 at Dougherty Valley High School. Registration will be available soon on the district's website. The hard work of Teen Esteem helps encourage healthy decision making and relationships built on respect, and Linda told me she is hopeful for the future.

"Our goal for 2014 is to launch Teen Esteem Education Talks -- video recourses on our website -- by year's end. We seek additional community and individual donations and volunteer assistance to achieve this important service for parents and caregivers," she said.

To donate, go to www.teenesteem.com or call 925- 855-9941.

Contact Caterina Mellinger at aroundalamo@hotmail.com.