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Students assemble medication disposal kits

Middle school Family and Consumer Education students (from left) Shelby DesJardin, Erik Moberg, Colleen Rogers, Truth Lowe, Meagan Jewell and Nevaeh Brewer assemble St. Croix County Medication Disposal Program bags, which contain information for citizens to learn how to safely dispose of their unused medication. (Submitted photo)

Young students rarely get the chance to make a contribution to the community while they are at school, but when Family and Consumer Education teacher Dawn Lane heard of an opportunity for her students to help with a medication disposal program by making information bags, she was all for it.

“It really gave us an opportunity to talk about the problem and to explain what that problem is,” Lane said. “We told them that we are doing this as a service to the community to help raise awareness to the problem and help give people good alternatives for what they can do with their unused medications.”

Lane first heard about the St. Croix County Medication Disposal Program from her friend and retired teacher Dolly Qualls, who, along with her husband Gale, has been doing much of the leg work with the information bags to get them to the public.

“I know Dolly professionally because we were part of the same professional organizations when she was teaching,” Lane said. “We kept in touch after she retired and when she and her husband brought this problem to my attention I said that my students could very easily help out with making the bags. She had been making the contacts and doing everything by themselves, even purchasing all the materials.”

According to Qualls she has been looking for ways to get the information out and hoping to find more places in New Richmond and across St. Croix County where she can put up her posters, which have all the important information about the drug take back program.

“We have five places right now in New Richmond where the posters are up already, but we are still looking for more places that could put one up,” Qualls said. “We are hoping those locations can help distribute the bags and have a poster as well.”

When Lane offered to have her students help put together the disposal bags, the Qualls were extremely happy to have help with the time consuming job.

“It is a nice system that they have set up to put the bags together with one kid putting the information in the bag, then the next putting on the stickers and the next sealing it,” Dolly Qualls said.

“It also helps to make those kids aware of what’s going on and hopefully it will help them understand better,” Gale Qualls said. “It also helps teach them to be responsible with things and they can have conversations with their parents too.”

The bags contain a single sheet of paper that describes the St. Croix County Medication Disposal Program and what the steps are to dispose of unwanted or leftover medication. The backside of the paper lists all the local drop off points where people can bring their medication once they have collected it and put it in the bags, including the New Richmond Police Department, and the Roberts, Hammond and Somerset police departments.

Although most people might not see how a medication disposal bag project connects with Family and Consumer Education, Lane feels like the project hits home as to what the class is all about.

“Truthfully, Family and Consumer Ed is very oriented toward connections with the community and what is good for all of us family members in society. That’s a big part of what we do curriculum wise,” Lane said. “There are times where you will have groups of students, for whatever reason, with some extra time here and there, and this is a really wonderful thing to have available to do. They enjoy doing it and it makes them feel good.”

Another reason Lane gave as to why the students enjoy helping put together the bags so much is that they get the chance to feel like they are contributing to something.

“That is a really important thing for kids right now is to be contributing members of society,” Lane said. “I think that is something that is lacking right now because kids don’t get that opportunity to contribute. A lot of people feel like they are a drain on everyone else, but the truth is that they have a ton to offer and this is a small example of that.”

Lane feels strongly that the medication disposal program is something which everyone should know about because it is such a common occurrence to have left over or unused medication sitting around the house for long periods of time.

“I’ve had many situations myself when I have had this little bit of something and sat there thinking, ‘OK, what do I do with this?’” Lane said. “I know we have an issue in St. Croix County with the misuse of medications, so you don’t want to put it in the waste supply or add it to the water system by flushing it. So it either sits in your cabinet or you do one of the things you know you shouldn’t do.”

So far, Lane thinks her students have completed more than 1,000 bags and said the class will keep making the bags as long as the Qualls need more to be made.

“We are just trying to fill Dolly’s orders when she needs more bags to hand out,” Lane said. “We are looking to make bags through the rest of the year to keep her orders filled. I’m guessing that once this information gets out there it will take care of itself over time and we won’t have to keep making the bags.”

With all the other things she is teaching in her classroom, Lane likes having the bag making project as an option to keep the students busy on the days the class finishes with an assignment or project before the end of the period.

“We do welcome these kinds of opportunities because it is a small way that the kids can help and feel connected to the community,” Lane said. “It is simple and easy for the kids to do and they enjoy it. It also gives me the chance to do something when there are just a few minutes leftover here and there at the end of a class period.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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