TOGETHER! We Rise

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What can we do together to advance the health and well-being of all young people in our region? Visit TOGETHER!’s blog to enjoy updates on our work and information on issues concerning families and young people.


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Thurston County adopts ordinance to advance youth health and protect public safety!

Thurston County, WA – Thurston County became the first jurisdiction in the state to adopt a marijuana- and- alcohol-focused “social host ordinance”, a model policy to help prevent underage substance abuse and improve public health and safety. According to the most recent (2014) Healthy Youth Survey (HYS), more than half (56%) of Thurston County 12th graders who drank alcohol got it from a friend or at a party. Limiting access to alcohol and drugs helps prevent youth use and related harms, but parents also play a huge role. The new ordinance sends a message that while the majority of Thurston County parents already actively prevent underage drinking and marijuana gatherings on their property, all parents and caregivers are expected to do so. “Parents matter,” says Meghan Sullivan, Executive Director of a youth-focused agency, TOGETHER!. “This policy is another reminder of the import role parents play in their kids’ lives. Ask them where they are going, who they will be with, and whether or not an adult will be present. Tell them regularly that you don’t approve of them using alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.” 

The ordinance also aims to address other factors affecting a youth’s decision to stay substance free. About one third (32% of 10th grade and 36% of 12th grade) of Thurston County high school students say laws and norms are favorable to substance use (HYS, 2014), a risk factor for youth use and related problems. Further, public and traffic safety were also considered. Aside from alcohol, marijuana is the most frequently-occurring drug used by drivers involved in deadly crashes in our state (Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 2015). Twenty-nine percent of Thurston County 12th graders report they’ve ridden in a vehicle driven by someone who had been using marijuana (HYS, 2014), and among those who current use marijuana, that number sharply increases. 

In 2016, TOGETHER!’s partnered with County Commissioner Bud Blake to create a plan for introducing the model policy concept in Thurston County, building upon a foundation laid by Rainier, Mercer Island and other communities. On Tuesday February 28, the Thurston County Commissioners took a smart step to adopt the policy, which takes effect 30 days later. “I’m excited that Thurston County is taking a leadership role in encouraging responsible behavior with our youth.  We hope parents and adults will use this as an opportunity to talk with kids about their expectations.”

Other key partners include Commissioners Hutchings and Edwards, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, and Thurston County Drug Action Team. Social host ordinances are an effective environmental policy for communities interested in reducing underage drinking and marijuana use supported by the Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, the Washington Healthy Youth Coalition, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

TOGETHER! is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 to serve youth and families in the South Sound and beyond with a mission to advance the health and well-being of all young people. TOGETHER! offers direct service youth programs, mobilizes communities through coalitions, advocates for healthier laws, norms and systems and promotes health through community and individual education.

For further information, contact, Johnna Knoerr, Program Director at 360.493.2230 ext. 110 or jknoerr@ThurstonTOGETHER.org.   

For the KOMO News story on this, click here.
 


Community Schools Breaks Barriers to Bring Resources to Students
Community Schools Breaks Barriers to Bring Resources to Students

A Community School is more than just a building where kids go to learn history and algebra. It’s a place, a partnership, and a state of mind – all at the same time. Community Schools are sites for all kinds of learning and growth: academic, social, emotional and relational. Students at Community Schools learn that they belong in school, where there is a community that cares for them. Their families learn that their participation and engagement in their child’s education is invaluable, and that their school will go the extra mile to get it. Staff at Community Schools learn that they don’t have to work in isolation, but can reach out to community organizations to help them help their students.

So how does it work? It starts with a partnership between a school district and a nonprofit who agree to work together to serve the needs of the students beyond academics, needs ranging from food and clothing to counseling and recovery services to healthcare and transportation. The nonprofit, or lead agency, then reaches out to other community organizations to build partnerships that make a wide array of resources and services as accessible as possible to students in schools. The idea is to weave networks of support that already exist in the community into the life of the school, so that students and families can spend less time worrying about how they’re going to access the services they need to survive and thrive, and more time thinking about their schoolwork.

In 2014, TOGETHER! partnered with Tumwater School District on just such an initiative and now, in our third year, Community Schools has grown to a vital piece of Tumwater’s student support program and, in the 2016-2017 school year, expanded into three high-need elementary schools for the first time. Listed below are just a few of the exciting programs we have developed to serve our students:

  • Partnership with Sea Mar Behavioral Health Services to provide in-school counseling to middle and high school students
  • Resource centers in seven buildings including food, clothing and hygiene items accessible to any student with referral from the counselor or Community Schools Manager. Sponsored by Tumwater Rotary, Tumwater Parent Organization, Black Hills High School Interact Club, and others.
  • Calming breath and movement practice currently being piloted with a small group of elementary school students at Michael T. Simmons Elementary, developed in partnership with Sea Mar Preventative Health.
  • Establishment of Student Success Funds to support incidental student needs that surpass the capacity of our resource centers, i.e. transportation passes and gas cards, activity fees, IDs needed for employment, certain healthcare costs and special clothing or supplies.
  • Back to Basics healthcare access event series: free sports physicals and immunization clinics every August, in partnership with Providence and Thurston County Public Health.
  • Community Engagement Nights and Family Fun Days with food, activities and community resources for kids and families.

If you or your organization are interested in partnering with us, let us know! We are always looking for volunteers to help us fundraise, plan events and keep our resource centers stocked! Here’s who to call:

Arianne Sandel, Michael T. Simmons Elementary, Peter G. Schmidt Elementary, and Black Lake Elementary Community Schools Manager, arianne.sandel@tumwater.k12.wa.us, 360-972-0319
 
Jennifer Gould, Tumwater Middle School and Black Hills High School Community Schools Manager, Jennifer.gould@tumwater.k12.wa.us, 360-999-0546
 
Lindsey Bates, Bush Middle School and Tumwater High School Community Schools Manager, lindsey.bates@tumwater.k12.wa.us, 360-742-7083
 
Cynthia Spencer, AmeriCorps VISTA for Community Schools, cspencer@thurstontogether.org, 360-972-4519


We've Moved
We've Moved

In December 2016, TOGETHER! moved to a beautiful new home base with the help of volunteers, Board, staff and partners. Thank you to all who helped make this dream a reality. Click here to view a photo album of our December 21 community and partner open house. New address 1520 Irving Street SW, Ste. A Tumwater, WA 98512.