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S.A.F.E. Youth organization turns 1

Pictured are S.A.F.E. Youth members who walked through the Fun Fest parade. From left to right are Dan Swanson, Joey Miller, Tom Wanless, Adam Halonen, Ellen Junko, Pearl Gronquist, Bailey Davison, Rose Smith, Sydney Lieffort, Lizzie Thomas, John Klemmensen, Andrew Swanson, Jeff Swanson, Emma Swanson and Sophie Littfin.

Roughly one year ago, teachers, students, police officers and community members banded together to create the Supporting an Alcohol Free Environment for our Youth group in New Richmond.

In that year, S.A.F.E. Youth has achieved many accomplishments. They also have plans for the future.

"People recognize it. I've heard a lot of parents say, 'Keep up the good work,'" said Jeff Swanson, New Richmond High School assistant principal and S.A.F.E. Youth committee member.

The mission of S.A.F.E. Youth is "to raise awareness about and reduce underage drinking in our community. Through the combined efforts of our schools, parents, community leaders, businesses and law enforcement, our goal is to reduce underage drinking by supporting an alcohol free environment for our youth."

S.A.F.E. Youth meetings aren't like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or a support group, Swanson said. Typically, meetings are used to update committee members on projects in the schools and communities. Those present also discuss and plan other activities. Everyone is welcome to attend the meetings.

A key component of the S.A.F.E Youth group is student involvement through the high school's S.A.F.E. Youth group, formerly called Arrive Alive. About 31 students are strong, persistent members, said Debbie Littfin, group advisor and science teacher.

"It's a really serious thing, and the kids are taking it seriously," Littfin said.

This summer a group of students went on a retreat to discuss the group's future. They're hoping to double their membership this school year.

"The kids are very excited, very passionate about it," Swanson said. "They're not afraid to take on the challenge."

S.A.F.E. Youth students have been active at community functions in the past year, including the Safety Fair, Art in the Park and Fun Fest parade. They've handed out yard signs, brochures, flyers, T-shirts and water bottles too. Grants and donations from groups and businesses have made those promotional materials possible.

More than $6,300 has been spent on S.A.F.E. Youth in the past year, Littfin said.

S.A.F.E. Youth has a few goals in mind for the next year: See membership doubled (both in the school and community), start reaching out to middle school students and plan an event.

Long-term, they'd like to see underage drinking end.

"We want kids to be alcohol free," Swanson said.

"In a perfect world kids would wait," Littfin added. "We know that (100 percent) is pretty unrealistic."

To keep the group's success going and get closer to their goals, S.A.F.E. Youth needs support from the community, Swanson and Littfin said. People interested can attend a meeting. The next one will be from 6-7 p.m. Sept. 1 at the new high school, 701 E. 11th St.

They would also appreciate financial support. Contact Swanson or Littfin at 715-243-7451 or New Richmond Police Chief Mark Samelstad at 715-246-6667 for more information. To mail a donation, sent it care of S.A.F.E. Youth to the high school.