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Somerset schools receive AODA grant

The Somerset School District has received an AODA grant that will benefit the district in the 2013-14 school year and in future years.

The $1,300 grant was part of approximately $950,000 given out by the Department of Public Instruction that will help reduce or prevent the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs among Wisconsin school students. The Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) program grants provide funding to teach skills and supply information aimed at preventing alcohol and illegal drug use.

The effort to earn the grant was led by Somerset district health teacher Sarah Colling, who took on AODA coordinator responsibilities for the district last year. Last year the district received a $700 grant that helped pay for Parent Night. The district has tried for the larger grant for several years and this year it was successful.

Colling said there are five measurable objectives addressing risky behaviors that needed to be addressed in the grant application. Those behaviors had to do with binge drinking, bullying, prescription drug abuse, mental health aspects and reproductive health. Colling said the objective of the grant is to decrease each of these behaviors by 5 percent in the district.

The grant will be used in a number of ways. It will be used to purchase AODA curriculum, including a program from Hazelden Foundation, that can be used for several years. It will help to fund several activities, like Parent Night and the Freshman Retreat. It will also help fund further training for Colling and the district guidance counselors.

Colling, who is in graduate school working on a master's degree in counselling, said the training is important because things related to drug abuse are changing all the time. She said as access to prescription drugs has been made more difficult, drugs like heroin and meth are becoming more of a concern.

"We want to be preventative, not reactive," Colling said in the school district's approach to drug abuse.

She said one of the biggest factors the school is seeking is more parental involvement. She said the school district is helping kids in grades K-12 with decision making and character building and they hope the ideas can be reinforced at home.

"They get the positive messages every day," Colling said. She said the goal is to get more parents involved in the programs the schools offer so the students can get more positive reinforcement.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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