Model Behaviour: Annie’s Story

Annie MacDonald is the kind, quiet type, which makes her a perfect model for her peers. Petite and sweet, she is the picture of calm and steady. That’s what makes her stand out, and a benefit to the NasKarz program.
“Annie has the ability to form relationships by simply hanging out with the targeted youth while maintaining her integrity,” says Jelica Shaw, one of Ray-Cam’s youth workers. “And, she is in no way threatened by and can’t be pressured to engage in any negative behavior.”
Annie, who is 16, signed a contract with Ray-Cam stating that she’d not drink or do drugs, which she has “never done anyway,” while participating in NasKarz.
She says, “It’s pretty easy to stay out of that; I guess I’ve had good friends that don’t pressure me. And, I have a good, tight family.”
The youngest of four siblings, Annie has two older sisters and a brother. Her father passed away a few years ago, from liver failure due to alcohol use. He’d been a practicing alcoholic during his younger years and he stopped drinking later in life, but by then the damage to his health was already done. So, Annie understands consequences and loss.
Annie’s quiet nature benefits the program because the targeted youth gravitate to her, largely because she isn’t threatening. And, if one listens close enough, she has a lot to offer to the targeted youth.
Annie was recruited into NasKarz in the fall of 2007.
“The program was in need of peers so the staff began to recruit positive youth who were already connected to the community,” Shaw says.
“Annie came to the program from Vancouver Technical School,” Shaw continues. “She was a friend of a targeted youth and was asked by her to see if she wanted to join the program.”
Two Ray-Cam staff interviewed Annie to see if she met the four-point criteria of a peer: 1) Attends school five days a week; 2) Maintains good grades; 3) Does not use drugs or alcohol; and, 4) Has a stable place to live.
“It was clear after the first interview that Annie fits the criteria,” Shaw says. “Staff agreed that her demeanor and ability to say no to drugs was enough for her to play a powerful role within the program.”
Annie gets good grades, attends school regularly, is not in an alternative learning program, and lives at home with her family.
The added bonus is that Annie “is not scared of or threatened by the targeted youth.”
Annie began to attend the program regularly, and staff quickly noticed that targeted youth were “shadowing her positive behavior, attending school and attending the program.”
Targeted youths’ school attendance improved substantially “and the thrill of drinking became a little less thrilling.”
“They were having fun without drugs and alcohol,” Shaw says.
And, Annie was having fun too, particularly when riding the go-carts.
“NasKarz keeps me out of trouble,” Annie says. “My friends are in it. I just basically do everything, but I don’t talk about drugs or alcohol or any of that stuff.”
“Annie’s peers look up to her and the main modeling outcome from her participation in the scholastic area. She keeps the targeted youth interested and attending school simply because she is.”
“For Annie and any other peer it is all about modeling. The targeted youth need a healthy model and luckily for NasKarz, a positive, non-threatening peer model is available.”
That’s Annie. Some, though, have been surprised by this gentle girl’s success as a role model. That surprise makes a certain amount of sense since more forceful personalities seem to get a disproportionate amount of the attention and accolades in this ambitious society. But, Shaw says we’re missing something important by placing a higher value on those more dynamic personalities.
“The program is not looking for a ‘Type A’ personality because targeted youth would simply not respond to that,” Shaw says. “They would not attend. That’s why the stillness that Annie has is what we’re after.”
Annie is working on getting her drivers license, and she aspires to become a make-up artist and to travel after graduating high school. In the meantime NasKarz keeps her busy and involved in her community.