Question: In your own words, tell what the Mille Lacs Area Partners for Prevention Coalition does.
René: We work with youth to help them understand the harms of using and provide them with adults they can go to for help. We help adults understand how they can talk to their children, grandchildren or students about not using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Each area school has a youth leadership group open to all students who want to help reach the goal of reducing underage drinking. The youth groups also organize and participate in alcohol and drug free activities. We help the communities see the real level of use by youth through “Our Voice, Our Choice” media campaigns. As a coalition, we provide training to area businesses who serve alcohol, making them aware of the laws and the consequences of serving youth. The coalition works as a group, with many different sectors of each community to find ways to make our communities safe and healthy for our youth.
Question: Do you feel the Coalition and its strategies will, in fact, accomplish its vision of A community that works to develop and maintain partnerships by engaging and empowering everyone to make healthy and safe choices? Why?
René: I do feel the coalition can succeed, but we need the help of the communities’ youth and adults. Educating the communities on the actual amount of alcohol use by our youth helps give the communities hope that we can conquer the problem. However, any use of alcohol or drugs by youth is too much. The coalition can give parents and community members support and knowledge on ways to reduce the use of alcohol and drugs by our youth.
Question: If underage drinking is reduced in our area, how can/will that affect our communities now and in the future?
René: When someone is using alcohol it affects their safely, education, and future plans just to name a few. It also affects their ability to make positive decisions. Our youth are our future and we need to do whatever possible to keep them safe and to teach them to make positive choices in their lives. This will help them be successful adults who will help the next generation make positive decisions.
Question: How and why would you encourage other people in the communities to support the efforts of the Mille Lacs Area Partners for Prevention Coalition?
René: In all communities there is talk of what the problems are and what should be done; when it comes down to it very few people are willing to make changes. If we want changes in our communities, we need as many people as possible to be working for change, not just adults but youth too. When we have our coalition meetings, we should not be able to fit in a little meeting room in all of the communities we serve. We should have so many people there that we have to use a large room or even a gymnasium for our meeting, to hold everyone in attendance. We can and do make a difference! I have lost two siblings because of alcohol, one was killed by a drunk driver and the other died of complications due to alcohol use. These were both preventable deaths. Youth need to understand that alcohol is a drug and it causes great loss to everyone in so many different ways.