Sun Valley : Leadership Retreat Targets Teen Problems

It started with a drug bust earlier this year and continues with chocolate-dipped marshmallows and blindfolded falls this week.

About 50 students from Village Christian Schools are scheduled to participate in a leadership retreat today and Friday at Camp Gilmore in the Santa Monica Mountains. They will take part in team-building activities--such as tossing chocolate-covered marshmallows into someone's mouth and falling into a person's arms while blindfolded--then brainstorm about service projects to improve their community.

The two-day event is the latest effort by officials at the private Sun Valley campus to prevent substance abuse and other teen-age pitfalls by encouraging students to take charge of situations.

"We want to empower the kids to take control of their own lives," said Tim Bolin, director of student ministries for the school.

Village Christian officials surprised the community seven months ago when it was revealed that they had invited undercover officers on campus for a sting operation. Six students were arrested on suspicion of selling marijuana.

The incident was followed last month with an hourlong motivational video shown to the schools' 1,100 high- and junior high school students, urging them to exercise self-discipline and offering the leadership retreat as a way to improve their community.

Today's retreat is open to Village Christian high school students. About 50 students signed up for it, and more have expressed interest in a similar event planned for December or January, Bolin said.

Student response "was overwhelming," he said. "They heard the message of the presentation. A lot of them said we need that type of leadership on campus."

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