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ACHS students at Catalyst Coalition awards

Students from American Canyon High School were honored May 30 at the Catalyst Coalition Awards for producing an anti-gambling video. From left is Melita Poehleman, Kyle Angelo Siy, Fermin Bautista, Ryan Ballesteros, Emily Marcelo, Jastis Lhey Bulaun, teacher Nhu-Y Vu and Camill Bagta.

Students and adults from American Canyon and Napa were awarded last week for their efforts to discourage young people from gambling or using drugs and alcohol.

A group from American Canyon High School was among those honored May 30 at the Prevention Champions Award Ceremony, put on by the Catalyst Coalition at the Napa County Office of Education.

The Catalyst Coalition, comprised of local agencies and organizations, seeks to reduce problems related to youth alcohol, substance use and gambling in Napa County.

Others recognized at the event included retiring Napa Police Chief Steve Potter and Mike Mansuy, director of student services for the Napa Valley Unified School District.

ACHS senior Emily Marcelo received an award for heading up a video project that warned youth of the dangers of gambling.

“I’m honestly surprised,” Marcelo said after the ceremony. “I didn’t know I was going to get it.”

Marcelo and 11 other ACHS students from Link Crew, a mentoring program, produced a video that tells the fictional story of a teenager who gambles to raise money for his family, resulting in deadly consequences. The other students involved were Jastis Bulaun, Melita Poehleman, Isabella Richards, Kyle Siy, Fermin Bautista, Camill Bagta, Ryan Ballesteros, Sophia Sebastian, Rej Sahagun, Jaylynn Advincula and Robyn-Elizabeth Yan.

The project was funded by a $6,000 grant from the California Office of Problem Gambling, which funded other student-led, anti-gambling projects at New Tech High School and Valley Oak High School.

“Students are responsible for scripting, coordinating, and producing live dramatic performances, video projects, and public service announcements to communicate the risks and signs of problem gambling among youth,” said Nancy Wynne de Rivera, health education specialist with the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency, who helped orchestrate the awards ceremony.

The videos will be available at the Office of Gambling Prevention website, she said.

Awards were also presented to students participating in Friday Night Live at ACHS, New Tech, Valley Oak, Justin-Siena High School and River School. Friday Night Live is a statewide organization that encourages youth to embrace positive behaviors and avoid dangers such as drunk driving.

Mansuy, who oversees student services at all NVUSD campuses, was presented with the Prevention Champion of the Year honor for developing a protocol between schools and law enforcement for helping kids caught with illegal drugs.

Potter, who is retiring soon as police chief, was given the Courage Village Award for community-based efforts to reduce teen suicide.

The award was established to recognize “those leaders who began those conversations and reached out to the vulnerable folks in our community,” according to Mark Bontrager, executive director of Aldea Children & Family Services, who presented the honor to Potter.

“He expresses and acknowledges the humanity of everybody involved in a situation,” Bontrager said of Potter.

“He goes everywhere in his uniform to spread the message that, ‘I’m on your side,’” said Bontrager. “He doesn’t have to do that. He’s on the pathway to retirement. He could be phoning it in. He doesn’t do that.”

Potter said after the ceremony he was “both honored and humbled” by the award.

“When I look around the room here,” he said, “and see all the people who are engaged with helping our youth, helping them make good decisions in life and helping them raise their self-esteem — to receive that award from them it is very touching for me.”

Potter said the work of the Catalyst Coalition is very important because there are “so many temptations for our youth these days in so many different areas.”


American Canyon Eagle editor

Noel Brinkerhoff has been editor of the American Canyon Eagle since 2014. Prior to that he covered state politics in Sacramento for the California Journal.