They say it takes a village to keep youth drug-free - we are ALL a part of that village. Together in prevention we can ensure that we are providing our youth with a safe, healthy community with opportunities to grow and thrive. WE NEED YOU TO "BE THE INFLUENCE" in the lives of our youth.
In March of 2014 a collaborative group of Windham and Raymond, Maine community members joined forces to raise awareness and address concerns caused by substance use and abuse in our communities. With Drug Free Community Federal funding, the Be The Influence collaborative has focused its attention towards prevention and education on youth in an effort to ensure healthy adults in our future communities.
The collaborative is comprised of members of the RSU #14 school community, local law enforcement agencies, town councils, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, prevention and counseling organizations, libraries, community organizations and the business community at large.
Using data and anecdotal information, the collaborative developed a problem statement and identified contributing factors, and together we have created a comprehensive plan to improve the consistency of information, education, resources, and communication to better equip our community in supporting healthy decision making by teens and adults.
Please click to learn more about how you can get involved.
It's an African proverb that has gained popularity since the mid - 1990s from the book title of the same name, "It takes a village to raise a child ." Be The Influence, a Windham/Raymond collaboration of individuals and organizations that work together to reduce substance abuse in the community is a successful example of that proverb.
The concept of Be The Influence (BTI) began in March 2014 as a group of Windham and Raymond community members joined forces to raise awareness and address the concerns of substance use and abuse. As a result of the Drug-Free Community Federal Funding, the BTI coalition was officially formed and began to focus its attention on the youth within the community.
The BTI vision is to provide support and resources to students as well as communicate a consistent drug - free message, assuring students that they live in a community that cares about them.
The coalition is comprised of various members of the community that include: RSU14 staff and teachers, local law enforcement, town council members, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, prevention and counseling organizations, libraries as well as community and business organizations.
Coalition members join forces because they want to make a difference and influence youth in positive ways.
"We work collaboratively to educate, engage and motivate the youth in making wise decisions and practicing healthy behaviors," stated Laura Morris, BTI Director.
Laura Kulaw, otherwise known as L.K., is a Health Teacher at Jordan - Small Middle School and one of the many coalition members who also acts as a youth resource representative. She feels passionate about being a positive adult role model. "I believe kids need positive role models and direction," stated L .K. "There is a lot of conflicting and misinformation out there regarding drug use and I want to help them sort it out with accurate facts."
L .K . also stated that she enjoys educating students and having them get involved to make a difference too. "If we can educate and give them an active role, they can speak to their peers about the effects of substance abuse."
Aimee Senatore, Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce (SLRCC) is also an active coalition member. "I am personally involved because I have young children nearing the middle school age and want to do my part," Senatore explained. "I want to not only educate myself but empower myself and my children with the knowledge and skills we need to be a healthy and happy family. Professionally, it is part of the SLRCC's mission to foster strong communities within the towns we represent. Protecting our youth from substance abuse has a direct impact on the quality of the workforce in the years to come and the health of our communities as a whole." Windham Police Department Patrol Captain, Bill Andrew is also part of the BTI coalition. Andrew participates because he wants to collaborate with others in the community, providing a positive and consistent message to the youth. "As a police department, we want to provide the same message on the street that is provided in the classroom and beyond," explained Andrew. " To do that, we work collaboratively with BTI and have police officers and drug experts speak to students on an interactive level in their Health Classes. It's important for the students to see and speak to the officers on a personal level on issues such as drugs without feeling threatened." Andrew encourages students to make wise decisions and to consider the long-term effects of drug and alcohol use. "Using drugs will affect a student' s academic success as well as their athletic abilities and other favorite extracurricular activities," Andrew stated. "I encourage them to think about their future, three to five years from now, and where they hope to be. It is very important that they understand the impact drugs have on their brains." Although there are many conflicting thoughts surrounding drug, and specifically marijuana use, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that marijuana use among teenagers and the effect it has on their developing brain is of major concern. The American Psychological Association (APA) confirms Andrew's statement regarding the use of mind-altering drug use and the developing brain.
Most experts agree that the fully developed brain occurs around the age of 25 (some say 21). As a result, the brain is still "under construction" and studies indicate that drug and alcohol use have an effect on that developing brain.
According to the APA, marijuana shows some promise for treating medical conditions. However, "At least some of those benefits a rethought to come from cannabidiol, a chemical component of the marijuana plant not thought to produce mind-altering effects. But there's a lot left to learn about this and other chemical compounds in marijuana. What's clear, however, is that marijuana's signature high comes from a psychoactive component known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). And evidence is mounting that THC is not risk - free. "
Originally from Boston, Laura moved to Maine in 1974 where she attended Lincoln Academy High School and graduated with a BA in Communications with high honors from the University of Maine at Orono. Since that time, she worked as a Regional Director of Sales and National Trainer for Marriott as well as a Leadership and Motivational Speaker for numerous organizations. For the past 19 years, she has specialized in prevention with her own non-profit agency as well as the Council for Drug Free Youth in the Midwest. Recently, she moved back to Maine and is thrilled to continue working with a Drug-Free Community grant and the amazing community of Windham and Raymond in keeping our youth drug-free. She lives in Scarborough and has two adult sons, Ben and Josh.
Our Project Coordinator, Nicole-Raye Ellis, recently graduated in the top 10% of her class, as a high honors student from Southern Maine Community College in May 2018, with an Associates in Education and Associates in Liberal Studies. Nicole knows the impact of being an influence, and what effect it has on our youth because she has experienced negative and positive influences first-hand. Nicole is 31 years old and has been in recovery for almost 9 years. She is grateful every day that she was able to find positive people, whose influence in her life, enabled her to finally break free of a negative lifestyle and form the life she always wanted. Nicole is determined to be a positive role model to her 5-year-old daughter, Annabella, as well as to all youth whose lives may be lacking a positive influence.
Jennifer Alvino is the Library Director at Windham Public Library. She is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine with a BA in Communication and Simmons College with a MS in Library and Information Science. Ms. Alvino is a member of the Maine Library Association and Minerva Consortium Executive Boards and is a Past President of the New England Library Association. She has also worked in a variety of capacities with the American Library Association.
Capt. William (Bill) Andrew has been in Public Safety since 1990. He started as a member of the Windham Fire/Rescue Department before becoming a dispatcher. Has an A.S in Law Enforcement Technology, a B.S. Criminal Justice, and he is working on finishing his MBA. In 1996 he became a full-time police officer. Since becoming a police officer he started the Department's K-9 program, and worked to start what is known today as: Be the Influence Coalition.