This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, which has been providing information and education to the community about drug, alcohol and tobacco use by teens in the Santa Clarita Valley since 2000.
“We’ve promised to be as current as we can (in the issues we address),” said Penny Upton, a founding member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force and the co-founder of Safe Rides.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force has addressed concerns such as suicide awareness, peer pressure, teen stress, gangs, sex and making healthy life choices, among others.
Community-based organizations, such as ACTION, businesses, parents, educators and city staff comprise the Blue Ribbon Task Force.
Originally called the Mayor’s Task Force, the Blue Ribbon Task Force started when a woman had a problem with her child.
“(She) went everywhere knocking on doors. She went here and she went there and then she came to City Hall and she wouldn’t stop pounding on the door until she got someone’s attention,” said Upton. “She said you need to give people a resource, they need to know what the problem is and where they can go get help. You need to wake up the parents… She knew where kids were going, where they were getting stuff, where they were hiding it.”
Alice Reynolds, a parent who has lost her sons in a car crash, has been a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for almost 15 years.
“(To save lives is) why I’m on this committee,” said Reynolds. “Whether it’s from reckless driving or drugs, heroin or pills in the medicine cabinet or suicide, whatever it is, this committee to me is to save kids lives.”
Reynolds was asked to be apart of the Blue Ribbon Task Force after she spoke at one of the Every 15 Minutes program shortly after her sons were killed in a car crash.
“(Frank Ferry, a former Santa Clarita City councilman,) felt that our impact would be needed on the Blue Ribbon Task Force because it deals with kids with drug and alcohol and tobacco issues,” said Reynolds. “At that time, there were so many kids that had been killed in car crashes and he felt that our impact and knowledge would be helpful. I wasn’t sure at first that we could be helpful or needed it took us a while to join but then we did join.”
The award-winning Santa Clarita Youth Grove came out of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, said Reynolds.
A subcommittee was formed from the Blue Ribbon Task Force to build the Youth Grove.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force has also put on many programs in the past that has attracted hundreds of parents and students, most recently, the “Immature Teen Brain on Pot” symposium.
“I think the Blue Ribbon Task Force has done a lot of really great things,” said Reynolds.