The Lake of the Woods County Prevention Coalition recently established its vision of “Creating a community culture that empowers youth to be alcohol, tobacco and drug free.” It takes a dedicated and ever-growing team of people working together to realize this vision. This week’s LWPC Spotlight features Friends Against Abuse Manager and coalition member, Tonja Reed.
Why do you feel passionate about the youth in our community?
Tonja: I am a parent of two teenagers and I worry about my kids and their friends, and their future. I feel our youth have a lot to offer, not only here in this community, but where ever they end up in life…and I want them to live up to their full potential and make their dreams happen, without getting caught in the trap of drugs and alcohol.
Why do you feel strongly that the youth in our community should be alcohol, tobacco and drug free?
Tonja: There is just so much out there besides drugs and alcohol. They have their whole lives ahead of them, alcohol is a gateway drug that can lead into trying other drugs like pot or meth or cocaine, things that they wouldn’t normally have tried if they had not been drinking. Youth don’t always realize the consequences or negative impact that drinking could end up having on their lives, and with my job, I end up seeing some of those negative impacts, whether it be community service hours, or being sent to a juvenile detention center, or jail. Unfortunately, sometimes its worse, sometimes they end up dying. Every year we hear about a youth either being rushed to the ER because they drank too much or they drove under the influence and ended up in an accident.
What have you heard about the prevalence of underage alcohol, tobacco and drug use in our community?
Tonja: I think it’s here just like it is everywhere else. You hear people talking about kids getting caught smoking or chewing, or of kids having parties here or there, but over all I think most of our youth choose not to drink.
Do you feel the Coalition and its strategies will, in fact, accomplish its vision of creating a community culture that empowers youth to be alcohol, tobacco and drug free? Why?
Tonja: I do believe that it will have a very positive effect on our youth here. I think the coalition will help give them the support and the tools to take a stand against drugs & alcohol…and allow the youth to come together and make positive choices for themselves and their future.
What are you most looking forward to learning over the next five years through your involvement in the coalition?
Tonja: Mainly how to keep this project going once the five years are up. I think it’s a good thing, and I do believe it will be good for this county and our youth, so learning how to sustain it once the five year mark is up is important.
Keeping in mind what you know so far, what has impressed you or intrigued you most about the grant and its strategies?
Tonja: What impresses me is how involved the youth actually are in this process, and how involved they want to be. It gives them the opportunity to have a voice in their own lives & to show everyone that they can and do make good decisions, as well as help guide others and set good examples, and learn to become leaders.
The Lake of the Woods County Prevention Coalition is funded through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division. If you would like to find out more about the Coalition or perhaps become a member of the coalition, please contact Tammie Doebler or Joyce Washburn by calling the Lake of the Woods School, 1-218-634-2510 ext. 1100, or visit the website at www.lwpcstory.org.