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How this year’s Leadership Forsyth project helped improve a sober, fun spot for teens
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Saturday, April 24 at FullCircle to celebrate new improvements at the center done by members of Leadership Forsyth’s Class of 2021, which including new lighting, a new DJ booth and a new stage at the Shop, FullCircle’s sober teen hangout space. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

A center that helps youth who are struggling with mental health and sobriety issues got a little cooler after some help from a local group.

On Saturday, April 24, members of Leadership Forsyth Class of 2021 held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the group’s project, improvements for FullCircle, a local program for at-risk youth at 433 Canton Road #301, including new lighting, a new DJ booth and a new stage at the Shop, FullCircle’s teen hangout space. 

“As you can tell, this place can really get rocking really quickly, so we’re fired up for them,” said Parker Brunelle, a member of this year’s leadership Forsyth Class, after a quick demonstration showing off the new speakers and lights. “We’re really excited that you guys can use the space, blow it out and just have a blast,”

Brunelle called the work the “toughest class project of all time for Leadership Forsyth because of COVID” but said he was glad to see how the project developed and everyone in attendance to check it out.

“It’s really cool to finally get everybody together here,” Brunelle said. “I know throughout the year we’ve had a couple of people here, a couple of people there, so to finally come together and celebrate this awesome space that FullCircle brings to the community [is awesome]. A lot of us have had a lot of time spent here and involved with the FullCircle team and to see these kids.

“From our 2021 Leadership Forsyth Class, we’re super excited to be a part of this. We are so invested in you guys moving forward. I know this project is coming to an end, but moving forward we want to continue to be part of this project you guys have going on here.”

Along with the new stage, lights and DJ booth, Leadership Forsyth members also helped renovate FullCircle’s office, helped build a snack bar and got cornhole boards primed and ready to be painted by students in the program.

Victoria Ray, a Forsyth County native who serves as the FullCircle’s development coordinator, said she was grateful for the group’s involvement in the project and said she and parents of students in the program spent the night before the event deep cleaning the Shop and getting it ready for the event.

Once the work had wrapped up, Ray said she had a realization.

“Everybody had left, and I just had this moment where I was so overwhelmed with gratitude,” she said. “I don’t how much y’all know about me, but I grew up here, and this place really was this dream that we had had for a while of being a place for young people that struggle with mental health and substance use, kids like me that didn’t have a place like this in high school.

“Just to see that, one, come to fruition in the middle of the pandemic and then to be able to walk in here. Guys, we have the coolest Shop of any FullCircle in the country.”

Ray said she was happy with how the partnership between FullCircle and Leadership Forsyth had grown and how willing members of the group were to stay involved with the recovery efforts.

“What was really cool about this class is they didn’t just give us stuff and say, ‘Okay, bye,’ they would come and meet with me and talk with me and meet with the kids and kind of help me with more of the nonprofit stuff, which is really cool,” she said. “They really had the coolest project because it’s like they created a sober party for teenagers.”

Along with the FullCircle’s local program, there are also locations in Missouri, Colorado and Arizona.

FullCircle opened at its current location last summer, which meant many meetings and functions had to be held online due to COVID-19 protocols.

“It was the scariest thing of my entire life because it was like, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,’ but it was this huge leap of faith of like, ‘God put this in front of me,’” Ray said.

Once officials with FullCircle acquired the space for the Shop, they began seeing a regular group of familiar faces

“That’s kind of how it is here, if they’re part of it, they just come,” Ray said. “It’s like a lighthouse, they just show up and they’re here.”

As Saturday’s event began to wrap up teens in the program began showing up for one of the weekend’s events.

Ray said the center is open Mondays through Fridays, but Friday and Saturday nights were the biggest weekly sober events. This week, the attendees getting ready to have a cornhole competition using their new boards.

“They’re this big, fun, sober, social events because you can imagine if you’re a teenager struggling with substance abuse or depression… Friday or Saturday nights are either the nights you’re going out partying or the night you’re like locked in your closet along depressed,” Ray said.

FullCircle is a free program that serves about 35 teens and their families with education, counseling and support, parent meetings, games, sober events and more.

The program operated with a 12-step recovery model focused on “enthusiastic sobriety,” or “the idea that young people will stop their self-destructive behavior only if they are offered an alternative that is both fun and fulfilling,” for those facing substance abuse, mental health concerns, eating disorders, pornography addiction, gambling addiction, self-harm, promiscuity and other compulsive behaviors.

Ray said members start with a two-week trial, though she recommends they give it at least 90 days to check FullCircle out. Those that stay in the program can stay involved for another one to three yars. 

All staff members are also in 12-step programs and have gone through an enthusiastic sobriety program.

“This is kind of the safe haven,” Ray said. “So, when they come here, they know there’s going to be people here that are sober that they are going to be able to talk to and open up to and councilors are here all the time, too, so it’s kind of facilitated by the staff.

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