On the 11th, my AmeriCorps team and I participated in a Conflict Resolution training facilitated by TAC board member, Donna Hallock. First we discussed what conflict is, what it looks like, and where it often occurs. We learned about our own conflict styles and how those inform how we handle conflict in our lives (I found out that I’m an avoider). Finally, we learned about and practiced some conflict resolution communication techniques like reflections and asking neutral, impartial questions. It was a lovely training and I walked away with some more self-awareness and some new skills to navigate conflict.
For AmeriCorps members, MLK day is a “day on” rather than a “day off”. Teams are expected to plan service activities and give back to their community. For our service day, we visited the Willapa Harbor Care Center and the Alder House in North County and the Long Beach Retirement and Assisted Care in South County. We visited with residents, playing games, doing puzzles, coloring, and learning about their stories.
The 20th was the very first TAC Teen Night. We hosted an Open Mic event at Elixir Coffee, Tea & Flowers in South Bend. Our South Bend Peer Helpers were in charge of planning and advertising for the event as well as running the raffle and emceeing the event- they were amazing! We had about 35 attendees and around 10 performers with talents from singing to storytelling to performing poetry. It was a super fun, successful evening!
On the 28th, I helped carry out the Point In Time count, which is a nation-wide census of housing insecure folks. It’s important to have accurate numbers of community members in need of housing in order for us to receive funding to provide services for those folks. It was an emotional day, but overwhelming positive, especially when we were able to get people to Project Homeless Connect, where they could receive support and services they needed.
As part of my role in Willapa Community Network, I spent a lot of time in January updating the Pacific County Resource Directory for 2016. You can check that out below. To request printed copies, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAC Board Retreat: New Projects
In November, the TAC board had a retreat during which we revised our mission and vision and talked about where TAC has been and where we are headed. Three things that came out of the retreat that I’ve been working on include:
1. Working with teens to create more pro-social activities in our community. We are hoping to partner with community organizations and local businesses to make this an inclusive effort. One event in the works is an Open Mic Night for teens to perform poetry or music. We are looking at January for this event and Elixir Coffee Tea & Flowers has offered to be the venue. Look for more information soon!
2. Creating a middle school program similar to Peer Helpers. Students would receive a shorter training and provide support for their peers, work with the high school Peer Helpers on projects, and act as advocates for the middle schools. This would also provide an opportunity for our high school peer helpers to be mentors and leaders for the middle school peer program.
3. Re-branding the “Teen Arm” so that there’s less confusion around the difference between Peer Helpers (who have received specific training) and youth who want to be involved in TAC. I’m getting input from the Peer Helpers about what they think the “Youth Arm” should be called and what they think the middle school peer program should be called.
Social Norms Posters
Another project I’ve been working on this month is aimed at correcting incorrect ideas about the rates of alcohol and drug use among teens in our community. Using data from the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey, I’ve been creating infographics like the ones below:
Willapa Community Network
My work for WCN this month included creating a website (check it out here: www.willapacommunitynetwork.weebly.com) and reviving their Facebook page (check THAT out here: https://www.facebook.com/Willapa-Community-Network). I’m also coordinating the 2016 WCN Mini-Grants. You can find more information about that on our website. Applications are due December 11th.
Growing Together Community Garden
I’m really excited to be able to volunteer at the Growing Together Community Garden in South Bend for a couple of hours each week as part of my service. If you don’t know, the garden grows food for the food bank (212.5 pounds of fruit and veggies in September alone!) and serve elderly, mildly disabled, low income, and immigrant persons by renting garden beds at low cost and supporting the gardeners with information, consultation, cheer leading, and use of tools and supplies. Check out the garden on Facebook for more info: https://www.facebook.com/Growing-Together-Community-Gardens
Coming Soon: online resources for teens and parents
One last thing I’ve been working on this month is compiling reliable online resources for teens and parents around health, alcohol and other drugs, and social issues. I’m hoping to publish these resources on the TAC website soon, so keep your eyes open for that!
October was a busy month for TAC, the Peer Helpers, and the Pacific County Resiliency Corps! Here’s my update:
Our Peer Helpers are getting busy with sports, school, and extracurricular activities, but they are still fired up about making changes in their schools. In Raymond, the Peer Helpers are working on revising the language of the non-discrimination code and Title XI Policy in their student handbooks to be more inclusive.
Red Ribbon Week
Check out our blog post about Red Ribbon Week here: http://www.pacificcountytac.org/blog/red-ribbon-week
School Board Presentations
On October 22nd, TAC’s Vice Chairperson Lyndsey Owen and I had the opportunity to present at the Raymond School Board meeting. We talked about TAC, the Raymond Peer Helper program, and the 2015 Peer Helper retreat. TAC is hoping to do similar outreach in Willapa Valley and South Bend school districts in November.
Pacific County Resiliency Corps
Volunteer Recruitment Training: On October 16th, the AmeriCorps team received training on Volunteer Recruitment from Jill Kawulok, Chief Operating Officer of Big Brothers, Big Sisters Southwest Washington. We brainstormed ways to increase community engagement in our organizations, learned about best practices for screening potential volunteers, and discussed strategies for keeping volunteers involved and engaged.
Make a Difference Day: On Saturday, October 24th, the AmeriCorps team hosted a Day of Service in North Pacific County. Our mission was two-fold: provide yard clean-up services to community members in need and collect winter clothing to distribute to children in our community. Three team members cleaned gutters, raked leaves, and mowed lawn for five folks in Raymond and South Bend. The rest of our team spent the day at Pioneer Grocery, Everybody’s Supermarket, and Raymond Library collecting winter clothes donations. Community members generously donated over 50 coats and sweaters which I am now working on partnering with the schools to distribute. Great success!
AmeriCorps Launch: October 30th was the official AmeriCorps launch in Seattle. Five of our team members were able to attend and represent Pacific County and Resiliency Corps. We were sworn in as AmeriCorps members, listened to Bill Basl, the director of AmeriCorps, talk about what it means to be an AmeriCorps volunteer, and got to learn about the work that our peers are doing all over the state. I also had the opportunity to volunteer with EarthCorps, planting trees and restoring natural habitat in Seattle’s Woodland Park.
ACEs and NEAR Science
On October 5th, I had the opportunity to attend an Adverse Childhood Experiences study and NEAR (Neuroscience, Epigenetics, ACEs, and Resilience) science training in Seaside, Oregon. I learned about how trauma-informed care is successfully being implemented in all sorts of health and community-related settings, including behavioral health services, schools, and law enforcement policies. I sat with a group from Pacific County and we talked about how we can bring additional ACES training to Pacific County and begin and/or continue to implement trauma-informed care in all sectors in our county. If you want to learn more about the ACES study and why it’s important, check out the link below. Also keep your eyes open for training opportunities happening in Pacific County early next year. http://traumainformedoregon.org/resources/
Red Ribbon Week is a nation-wide drug prevention awareness week that runs from October 23-31st each year. Sponsored by the National Family Partnership, the mission of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to be a very visible, unified push toward creating safe, healthy, and drug-free communities throughout the United States. Aimed at school-age audiences, this year’s Red Ribbon Week is Respect Yourself: Be Drug Free. “We know that just telling youth that drugs are bad and not to use them doesn’t work. Instead, we are working to educate around how drugs negatively affect the adolescent brain and to focus on positive alternatives to drug use in that population,” said Alyssa Grams, AmeriCorps member with the Teen Advocacy Coalition (TAC), “I think this goes hand in hand with the theme of self-respect.”
During Red Ribbon Week in North Pacific County, TAC will be holding awareness days at Raymond, South Bend, and Willapa Valley high schools. According to Grams, “One of the things you hear a lot from youth, especially in rural areas, is that there’s nothing better to do here than get drunk or high. That’s a very common excuse for adolescent drug and alcohol use and, I think, one that’s important to address.” That’s exactly what TAC is hoping to do during Red Ribbon Week. At lunch time, students at all three high schools will have the opportunity to contribute to a collage of sorts by writing one of their favorite activities or, rather, one thing they’d “rather be doing than drugs”. These collages will then be displayed at each school.
TAC is partnering with school counselors and True North to provide accurate drug and alcohol information to students. “One of the most important aspects of TAC is to raise teen awareness regarding substance abuse,” Gracie Manlow, TAC Project Coordinator said. “By partnering with other organizations, students are receiving the most up to date data.”
While TAC is focusing on talking directly with teens for Red Ribbon Week, help and support from parents and community members is critical in working toward safe and drug-free communities for Pacific County youth.
If you would like more information about drugs and the adolescent brain or what you can do to help, or if you’d like red ribbons to display at your organization or place of business in support of Red Ribbon Week, please contact TAC at email@example.com or (360) 214-1307.
Friday, October 9th marked the first event of the Raymond High School Equality Club: a celebration of National Coming Out Day. Students hosted an information table at lunch to educate and answer the questions of their peers around the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community including the history of the Pride movement, LGBTQ rights, and how to be an ally. For Equality Club president, Maija Nordin, “it’s just all about awareness. We just want to make sure everyone knows it’s okay to be gay.”
Equality Club members created a Pride Poster displaying images of famous LGBTQ individuals and Allies such as Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Michael Sam, the first openly gay man to be drafted into the NFL, LaVerne Cox, the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy, and many others. “In a small town, it can be hard for gay people. I think they can feel like they are the only ones. This is why we are here today.” said Megan Moilanen, Equality Club Vice-President. The students’ effort was mirrored in select classrooms, where a Human Rights Campaign video celebrating actors, athletes, musicians, and reporters from the LGBTQ community was shown throughout the day.
“I think this is definitely a topic that folks can be unsure about at first, so it was awesome to see such positive responses from students, teachers, and staff- from students running around with pride wristbands and Equality Club buttons to staff asking questions about the LGBTQIAAP acronym, I think the Equality Club students have done great work in opening the conversation around a charged topic in a really positive way” says Alyssa Grams, AmeriCorps member with the Teen Advocacy Coalition and volunteer with Equality Club.
Equality Club is a completely student-driven non-curricular organization that was created in March when a group of students approached Raymond School District School Counselor, Lyndsey Owen, about creating a social justice club to promote equality. Says Owen, “I had seen other clubs and gay straight alliances work at other schools and thought it would be a great way to promote a welcoming school environment here at RHS. The response from the students has been overwhelming. The Equality Club has over 25 student members and is still growing.”
But Equality Club isn’t just for the LGBTQ community, “it’s also for stuff like race, religion, and beliefs” says Moilanen. Student members drafted a mission for Equality Club that includes promoting social equality and a safe school environment free from fear of prejudice, harassment, or violence based on age, development, disabilities, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientations, indigenous heritage, national origin, and gender or non-gender status. Owen is excited about what the Equality Club is working toward, stating that it “promotes mental health, social justice, and a welcoming student environment.”
With a successful first event under their belts, Equality Club members are looking to generate even more involvement and buy-in both in the Raymond School District and in all of Pacific County. Says Moilanen, “We really want to encourage other schools to do something like this”.
Alyssa, TAC’s new AmeriCorps member here. Each month, I’ll be reporting about what’s going on with what was formerly known as TAC’s “Youth Arm” but will now be referred to as Peer Helpers; I’ll be sharing what the South Bend, Raymond, and Willapa Valley teens are planning, what they are working on, and what they accomplish. I’ll also be writing about my AmeriCorps team, the Pacific County Resiliency Corps and about some of the work we are doing in both North and South Pacific County.
I was raised in a tiny town in rural Wisconsin called Necedah and I graduated with a B.S. in Health Promotion/Wellness and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point in 2014. I moved here from Northern California where I served with AmeriCorps at the Laytonville Healthy Start Family Resource Center for about a year. I am passionate about holistic health and wellness and particularly interested in mental health, but during my time in Laytonville, I worked primarily with K-12 students and fell in love with working with teens in peer mentoring, teen leadership, and extracurricular programs. When I read about the work TAC is doing, I knew I wanted to get involved; that’s how I ended up here in gorgeous Pacific County! I also love hiking, writing and performing poetry, swimming, canoeing, hanging out with animals, running, camping, making jewelry, and reading. I’m so excited to see what I can contribute to this program and community!
About Peer Helpers:
Peer Helpers are high school students who are voted by their peers to participate in the Peer Helper retreat based on who would be most likely to be helpful, supportive, and knowledgeable when faced with a difficult situation. All peer helpers are passionate about helping and caring for others. They are trained in when to seek additional resources in order to help their peers.
Check out our blog post about the 2015 Peer Helper retreat September 12th-14th:
About Pacific County Resiliency Corps:
Pacific County Resiliency Corps is a group of 12 AmeriCorps Members who serve a 10.5 month term in various youth-serving organizations in Pacific County in order to help reduce adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and increase resiliency of our community’s youth. Our members perform a variety of services throughout the county including providing healthy activities, educational opportunities, strong interventions, parenting education, financial literacy, family engagement, youth mentoring, tutoring, career exploration, and more.
We started our service on September 1st and attended a 3-day training retreat at Ocean Park Retreat Center to get oriented to Pacific County as well as receive training on topics like effective communication, leadership, mandatory reporting, diversity, team development, ACEs, and stress.
On September 11th, the team got together for a Day of Service in South County. We did yard work and clean-up for folks in need at Golden Sands Assisted Living as well as five private residences. Our next Day of Service is Saturday, October 24th, and we are currently inquiring about needs in North County and looking for a project. If you have ideas or want to collaborate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Want more information about the Pacific County AmeriCorps team? Check out our page on the Pacific County Youth Alliance’s website: http://www.pacificcountyyouth.org/team-americorps.html
TAC held the 5th annual Peer Helper Retreat on September 12th – September 14th at Falls Creek Retreat Center. Students from the five Pacific County high schools were invited to attend the weekend retreat where they received various trainings to assist their peers in times of crisis. This event was funded by TAC’s Drug Free Communities Grant (DFC).
Students were selected to attend the retreat by their peers. Each high school was surveyed at the end of the school year. In the survey, students were asked to identify their top issues in their schools. Then, students select up to four peers they would feel comfortable confiding in if they had a conflict or crisis. Each of the local high schools, South Bend, Raymond, Willapa Valley, Naselle and Ilwaco could bring around 10 students.
“This is the largest event TAC hosts,” Gracie Manlow, TAC/DFC Project Coordinator, said. “The students do some pretty heavy reflecting about the issues within their schools and how they can change things for the better.”
Various trainings and activities were offered throughout the weekend. This allowed students to gain skills and knowledge in the issues their peers identified as major problems in their schools. This year, the topics included: Know Your Rights: The Legal Aspects or Bullying, Safe Space: LGBTQ training and a panel on Cyberbullying.
“Students are trained on ‘how to’ assist a friend or classmate,” Manlow said. “The goal is that students will be able to identify appropriate community resources when a friend or classmate is struggling with an issue.”
For the second year in a row, TAC sponsored mini grants for the Peer Helper Retreat. Each school was asked to build a campaign focused on a major issue in their school. Students completed applications, which asked for a dollar amount of funding, and presented their projects in front of a panel of judges. Last year, TAC sponsored a tri-district drug prevention week, which featured youth motivational speaker, Scott Backovich.
“It’s a pretty amazing to see the projects the students come up with in a short amount of time,” Manlow said. “They truly care about their schools and making a positive impact on their peers.”
TAC would like to thank its many volunteers, chaperones and presenters for making the 2015 Peer Helper Retreat a success. TAC also extends thanks to the Falls Creek Retreat Center staff and the local high schools for their continued participation and support.
“We are here for the teens,” Manlow said. “We wouldn’t exist as a coalition if it weren’t for teen involvement.”
TAC sent four students and two adults to the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Youth Leadership Initiative conference in Indianapolis, IN. The conference was an opportunity for youth coalitions from all over the country to identify problems and potential solutions in their community. The conference was held from Monday August 3rd – Thursday August 6th.
“TAC has talked about sending students to a conference like this for a while,” Gracie Manlow, TAC Project Coordinator said. “The fact the students were able to get so much out of the conference is an added bonus.”
The students were asked to identify a single problem statement for their community. Interestingly enough, the students from Raymond and South Bend High Schools, claimed underage marijuana use is the biggest problem within their community.
“We weren’t exactly surprised that the students identify marijuana use as a big problem,” Manlow said. “Our data shows that youth perception is marijuana is ‘safe'.
Students worked with CADCA mentors and experts to pinpoint specific causes and solutions for their community. Ideas included: increasing compliance checks, working with the local school districts on their current marijuana policy and informing the public on the dangers of underage marijuana use.
Moving forward, the students plan to present their project at the annual Peer Helper Retreat and continue working. Hopefully the project will gain momentum and support from other students in the community.
“Despite the fact the students are from different schools, they all did an amazing job coming together for a common cause: reducing underage marijuana use,” Manlow said.
On July 16th, the Teen Advocacy Coalition and Sheriff Scott Johnson gathered at the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office to see a new addition outside the facility: a prescription drug collection box. The box, which is similar to a mail drop, will be available for anyone to securely dispose of unwanted or expired prescription medications year around, so that the community does not have to wait for the biannual community drug take-back events.
“We are very happy to be able to provide the prescription drop box as part of our Drug Free Communities grant,” stated Emily Popovich, board chair for the Teen Advocacy Coalition (TAC) of north Pacific County. “We also appreciate the collaboration with the Pacific County Sheriff’s department and Sheriff Johnson to be able to have a place to permanently place the drop box to give the community a safe way to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. “
According to Sheriff Johnson, research shows the abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise locally and throughout the country .The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that nearly one-third of people age 12 and over who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug non-medically.
According to TAC chair Emily Popovich, some individuals who misuse prescription drugs, particularly teens, believe these substances are safer than illicit drugs.
“This assumption stems from the fact that the drugs are prescribed by a healthcare professional,” Popovich said. “Students feel that if the drug comes from a pharmacy, it’s safe for anyone to use.”
Having a regular drop-off site will, hopefully, prevent prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands, and reduce the supply of dangerous drugs in our communities. It also works as a deterrent to citizens from flushing medications down the toilet, as they can do harm to the water system. Also, through a partnership between the Pacific County Sheriff’s Department and the Lewis County Sherriff’s Department, all medications that are collected are secured by law enforcement and will be incinerated in an EPA approved incinerator.
TAC’s efforts, along with local law enforcement, to keep prescription drugs out of the hands of youth and out of our environment is a result of building community partnerships and leveraging scarce resources in order to help keep our youth healthy and safe. The group believes that addressing the prescription drug abuse epidemic is not only a top priority for public health, but it will also help build stronger communities and allow those with substance abuse disorders to lead healthier and more productive lives.
TAC has partnered with Let’s Draw the Line, a state wide prevention effort, to support youth in making healthy choices and avoiding alcohol use. Through activities such as Substance Abuse Prevention Week, After Prom Party and Town Hall, TAC has provided local youth with safe alternatives to have fun.
These events are part of a statewide campaign to engage adults and youth in taking action to reduce underage drinking. The campaign (www.LetsDrawtheLine.org) is sponsored by the Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking.
TAC is supporting ongoing statewide efforts to reduce underage drinking in Washington. In 2010, outdoor advertising restrictions went into effect statewide to reduce the amount of alcohol advertising youth see on neighborhood stores and near schools. Over the last five years, the number of alcohol ads seen by youth ages 12-20 has increased 41%, according to the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth. A 2006 study found that the more alcohol ads young people see, the more likely they are to drink.
“Underage drinking is a major health concern in Washington”, Gracie Manlow, TAC Project Coordinator, said. “The good news is that our collective work working directly with youth and planning fun pro-social activities has been effective in preventing underage drinking.”
Although alcohol is the primary drug of abuse among youth, the 2012 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey showed that 11,000 fewer students are using alcohol compared to 2010. Since 2008, about 20,000 more youth in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade report that their parents talked to them about not drinking alcohol.
“We’re drawing the line because alcohol is especially harmful to the still-developing teen brain” Manlow said. “We want parents and other adults in our community to place a high priority on keeping alcohol away from teens.”
TAC recently conducted a Community Assessment of Neighborhood Stores (CANS) survey as part of the Let’s Draw the Line campaign. Ten establishments from South Bend, Raymond, and Menlo were included in the survey. TAC found that local grocery stores in our area do not typically use alcohol or tobacco advertisements, whereas all convenience stores do to some degree.
Of the ten establishments that were surveyed, TAC found that:
7 out of 10 stores surveyed included alcohol or tobacco advertising on the outside and inside of the store.
9 out of 10 stores sold high alcohol content drinks like Four Loko, Sparks, and Tilt.
4 of the 10 stores also sold glass pipes. 1 of the 10 stores sold “whip its”.
With graduation just around the corner, it’s important to remember providing alcohol to minors is a gross misdemeanor, with a potential penalty of $5,000 and a year in jail (RCW 66.44.270).
“Our mission at TAC is to provide youth with pro-social activities that reduce substance abuse,” Manlow said. “Ultimately, we want to ensure everyone is making healthy choices that will keep them safe.”