Nominees are middle and high school students; scholarships available
Left to right: SPSCC Foundation Development Manager Anne Larson, scholarship recipient Aylin Gonzalez-Ramirez holding her daughter, and Thurston County Commissioner Bud Blake at the 2016 Awards of Excellence Ceremony. Credit Shanna Paxton Photography.
Local youth will be recognized for their resilience in the face of adversity at youth development nonprofit TOGETHER!’s annual Awards of Excellence ceremony on May 13th, 2017 at South Puget Sound Community College. Five or more nominees, selected by a committee of event organizers and key partners, will receive scholarships, sponsored by Gateway
Rotary and other organizations. All nominees will see their pictures and stories printed in The Olympian, and be honored at the ceremony, where they and their families will be invited to enjoy dessert with representatives from their nominating schools and programs.
Nominations are currently being solicited from middle and high schools as well as some youth- serving community organizations in Thurston and Mason Counties. Nominators are encouraged to consider the diversity of their communities in selecting their nominees.
Last year, TOGETHER! honored 32 exceptional children and youth for their strength and leadership as part of their first Awards of Excellence ceremony since 2012. Gateway Rotary, TwinStar Credit Union, and South Puget Sound Community College Foundation sponsored four $1,000 scholarships and one full-year SPSCC tuition waiver, which were awarded to five deserving students.
TOGETHER! is a local nonprofit organization that engages and mobilizes families, schools and the community to advance the health, safety and success of our youth. They educate about issues affecting the community; work for laws, policies and community practices that support positive youth development; and provide direct services to children, youth and families. They work with coalitions and partnerships to improve effectiveness.
View PDF here.
Tumwater School District and TOGETHER! have been working together for three years to bring necessary in-school support to the students of Tumwater and beyond. One of our most powerful and popular programs is the annual Back to Basics event series, where volunteers from the medical community come together to provide back-to-school care to students at no cost.
Our first Back to Basics event took place on August 1st at Tumwater High School. An incredible team of volunteers from Tumwater Family Practice, Providence Tumwater Valley Physical Therapy, Olympia Orthopaedic Associates, Providence Sports Medicine, St. Peter Family Medicine, Tumwater Vision Health, and Tumwater School District’s own Health & Wellness Department provided free sports physicals to over 250 middle and high school students. Participation in after-school sports is shown to increase school engagement and pro-social behavior in students, but lack of medical access is a common barrier that prevents students from accessing these benefits. At Back to Basics Sports Physicals Clinic, we not only provide sports physicals for free, but also work to connect families with insurance coverage and primary care physicians, so that the rest of their healthcare needs can be met into the future.
The second and final event was the Back to Basics Immunizations Clinic on August 22nd at Peter G. Schmidt Elementary School. Immunizations were administered by Thurston County Medical Reserve Corps and community partners Hands On Children’s Museum, South Sound Reading Foundation, Tumwater Youth Programs, CHOICE Regional Health Network, Tumwater School District, South Sound YMCA, Head Start, and Tumwater Timberland Library tabled outside the clinic with information and resources. In all, the clinic served 88 families and 105 students. Among those 105, 132 vaccinations were given to 65 students who needed additional immunization to meet school requirements.
Financial support for Back to Basics 2017 was provided by Kaiser Permanente, City of Tumwater, and Tumwater Walmart.
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.
This holiday season, let’s Celebrate TOGETHER! All year round, we offer programs and services that enrich our community by caring for some of our most vulnerable members: our children. TOGETHER! works across sectors to advance the health and well-being of all young people through impactful youth development, health promotion, community engagement, and family support programs. But you already know that – if you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it to our website, probably through our newsletter or social media accounts, meaning you’re already a supporter of our organization, either as a donor, a volunteer, or just a friendly community member. Thank you for coming this far with us.
No one is quite sure what the future holds. 2018 bears the promise of new projects and partnerships that will serve our community in ways sorely needed, but also new challenges, some of which we can’t foresee. All we know is that we want to be there to support those youth and families who need us, the ones we already know and the ones who are yet beyond our reach. We want to be there for our community and help that community grow, no matter what happens.
With every backpack we give to a child before their first day of school, with every connection made between a student and a staff member they can trust, with every day that kids have somewhere safe, fun, and supportive to go after school, our community becomes a little bit stronger, a little richer, and a little more equitable. Every student should have an equal chance to succeed in school and in life. Our work is to make sure they do.
During this season of giving, you have the chance to be a part of that work. It all starts on #GivingTuesday, the day when we take a break from the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and give something back. We hope that you will consider TOGETHER! on this day, and help us reach our goal of raising $5,000 to kick off our year-end campaign!
CS Lewis wrote, “You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Click here to help us dream the dream of a world where all young people are supported, healthy, safe and valued.