It's often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And this is the philosophy of the Teaching Early Adolescents New Skills (TEANS) program, sponsored by the Gathering Place.

The Gathering Place is an outpatient treatment center for substance abusers. But it also has an extensive community education program aimed at preventing drug and alcohol abuse. The TEANS program is one education program directed at youth.Susan Asher, clinical director, said research shows that in Utah, more teenagers begin to use drugs during the sixth and seventh grades than any other grade. For this reason, the TEANS program targets older elementary-age children, especially sixth-graders.

TEANS involves community volunteers who teach children in public schools about saying "no" to peer pressure, handling stress and identifying more than one alternative for each problem. These problems underlie many teenage problems like drug and alcohol abuse as well as cheating, teen pregnancy and suicide.

The volunteers do not address these issues directly. Instead they focus on teaching the children skills that will help them avoid some of these problems later in their teen and adult lives.

Teams of volunteers teach elementary-school classes two one-hour modules on two separate days. Roberta Maggarell, volunteer coordinator, said that the volunteers use a lot of visual aids in teaching the concepts as well as role playing and class discussion.

People who are interested in becoming TEANS volunteers need to be willing to volunteer four hours a month, must enjoy children and feel comfortable speaking in front of a group.

Volunteers must attend a six-hour training session and watch an experienced volunteer conduct a session before beginning their teaching. Training is usually conducted during the morning hours.

The Gathering Place is also in need of office volunteers who are willing to spend several hours a week making follow-up calls to the schools to arrange for the TEANS program.

Other community volunteer opportunities include:

-Parent Education Resource Center in Orem needs volunteers to help with office responsibilities, working with parents and managing an office.

-Volunteers are needed to "adopt a grandparent" in a local nursing home and also help with weekly activities such as arts and craft classes, singing time and current events.

-Help the Red Cross call elderly homebound people to make sure they are all right.

For more information on these and other volunteer opportunities, call the United Way Volunteer Center at 374-8801.