What would it mean to have a positive community of young people who are committed to following their passions, exploring states of consciousness in healthy ways, and experiencing deep human connection in community? Avani Dilger developed Natural Highs, a program working to empower teens in Boulder, Colorado, to explore that question.
With rates of teen depression and suicide rising in the United States, Avani has created a model to address substance abuse and mental health issues that is an inspiring example of what works, and what youth really crave. Avani explains, “addiction isn’t just about stopping doing something. It’s also about finding organic and body-centered ways to feel naturally happy.”
By co-creating workshops and sober events with teens, Natural Highs has developed a reputation for being a safe space in an otherwise troubling world. It’s a place where teens can feel empowered in their leadership and work together to create a positive peer culture. Teens in the program have created open mics, talking circles, shared yerba mate as part of gourd circles, Reiki classes and even started a record label. They learn practices for wellbeing including cutting-edge brain chemistry, healthy rituals, non-judgemental dialogue and herbal remedies. Most importantly, they weave friendships and a sense of belonging within their larger community. “The moment you give kids a space, they are able to turn tragedy into really profound wisdom,” says Avani.