I'm back in Chicago now to staff another Operation Snowball. At it's most basic, it's a substance abuse prevention program, but I think it's more. Their site explains the source of the name simply -- "If I have a positive impact on you, you can have a positive impact on someone else and the effect snowballs."
The weekends from my school district tend to focus more on teaching high school kids to respect themselves and learn to have a good time without any...assistance. Putting people in a comfortable environment allows them to see what it's like to be themselves instead of the persona they put on for those in their everyday lives. The idea is that they'll realize this feeling ain't so bad and start bringing this newfound confidence back with them after the weekend. Hopefully, the increased confidence will help them enjoy life and decrease the need for drinking or smoking.
That's the gist of it. All of this being said, I think there is definitely room for "substance" in life. The key is, like so many lite beer ads say, learning to enjoy it responsibly. Dependence is bad.
I love doing these weekends because it feels good to see so many kids who enjoy the opportunity to let loose and be themselves. This is why I've been involved for over 10 years now. Unfortunately, not too many can sustain that attitude after the weekend. Still, I'd rather give them this weekend, this respite from the drudgeries of everyday life, then leave them be.