Commentary: Youth council has already done a full year’s work

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Due to the situation we are facing, not only as a community but as a nation, we thought it would be a great opportunity to update Southington on the work of the STEPS youth council and their accomplishments so far this year.

With our biggest group yet of 43 students, this year has certainly been exciting. The group is divided into five workgroups, all focusing on a different prevention area. Topics include underage drinking prevention, marijuana prevention, vaping prevention, prescription drug prevention, and asset building with a concentration of emotional intelligence. Although the students are working on various projects of their choice, there is one common goal: to make prevention a priority in the Southington community through education, reducing access and policy change.

Since the beginning of the school year, the youth council students come together and meet twice a month at the Southington Police Department. One group created resourceful games to help break down the complexity of assets for younger students.

Another group launched the ‘Escape Your Vape’ campaign, which made its debut at the 2020 Healthy Family Fun Fest, that provides innovative ways to get nicotine addicted teens the cessation tools and resources they need.

An online parent pledge to keep substances out of the reach of substances is in the works, along with two new public service announcements have been filmed with the help of Dan LeRoy Productions. The latest PSA regarding the signs of prescription drug misuse will be ready to view in just a few weeks so be sure to like the Southington STEPS Coalition on Facebook to check it out.

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The STEPS youth council is successful not only because of the passionate students we have the opportunity to work with, but because of the amazing adult advisors that make the group a priority.

A special thank you to Denise Sicotte, Christina Simms, Marie Bray and Patti Feeney for volunteering their time to make the projects and ideas the students have, into a reality.

In addition, we would like to give a special shout out to our high school seniors, as many have been members of STEPS since they were in sixth grade.

Please help me in congratulating our outstanding seniors: Kelly Bergland, Chris Chaplinsky, Morgan Duling, Alexis Izzo, Andrew Kudla, Josh Maccione, Rachel Martins, Sarah Meade, Sarah McAuliffe, Andrew Paradis, Ryan Parent, Manal Sheikh and Gianna Wadowski.

We could not be more proud to work with such a talented young group of movers and shakers. These are the students that helped push for multiple policy changes in Southington, and we know they are going to go on and change the world.

As always, check out our website at www.SouthingtonSTEPS.org, sign up for our online newsletter, and be sure to like us on Facebook.

Megan Albanese is the Southington STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281 or albanesem@southington.org.