In 1987, DeeDee Stephens had “The Sandbox Moment.” She was picking weeds out of her kids’ sandbox and thinking about her teenage daughter and her friends. DeeDee’s heart broke for students struggling under the weight of negative peer pressure – many of them making damaging and dangerous decisions. She decided something had to be done to support students and felt that God was calling them to get involved. DeeDee realized that the persuasive power teens have in one another’s lives could have tremendous positive impact. Her idea was to gather a group of teens who would commit to being positive role models and speaking to younger students in their school. The first group of 4 students went into the classrooms of younger students to discuss questions about issues that affect teens. The first group of 4 Teen Advisors grew to 12, then to 42, and the group kept growing. Parents, principals, and students from other local schools began requesting Teen Advisor programs at their own schools. DeeDee and her husband, Richard, worked alongside parents and volunteers to build a program that allowed students to make wise decisions, support one another, and encourage younger students. These two remarkable individuals saw brokenness and genuine need in young, impressionable teenage lives and wanted to do something about it.
In 2002, the Teen Advisors organization responded to the concerns of parents, teachers, and administrators over their middle school students. The tide of negative peer pressure rises on students in middle school and they need support. The Velocity program maintains the principles of Teen Advisors and uses strategies tailored to the needs of middle school students. Seventh and eighth grade students who join Velocity make the same integrity commitment as high school students joining Teen Advisors and also speak to younger students within their schools. In 2015, the program expanded again, this time to meet the unique needs of freshmen and start reaching students in elementary schools. The Elevate program provides support and encouragement for that first, exciting and challenging year of high school while giving those students the opportunities to speak to 5th graders about to transition to middle school.
We stand in awe of the ways Richard and DeeDee’s desire to help the teenagers she loved has blossomed into a network of support for hundreds of students impacting thousands of their peers. Their lasting legacy in Teen Advisors continues to this day and there is no doubt that Teen Advisors would not be where we are today without their godly obedience, their sacrifice, and their passionate commitment to youth in our area.