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OC middle schoolers visit universities; Vice principal honored as Mental Health Hero; Club seeks to prevent drug use

In Oregon City schools, the AVID college preparedness program helps disadvantaged students prepare for college success by building skills and supporting students in pursuing challenging coursework. Most students in the program do not come from college-going families, so the program provides opportunities for students to visit university campuses starting in middle school.

Gardiner Middle School's eighth grade AVID class traveled from Oregon City to visit the University of Oregon to learn more about college life and opportunities. AVID students from Gardiner and Ogden middle schools have the opportunity to visit three campuses. Sixth graders visit Western Oregon University, seventh graders visit Oregon State, and eighth graders visit the University of Oregon.

"They have wild technology at OSU," said Gardiner seventh grader Michael Dayton. "I got to see how a 3D printer works."

"College visits are a super-positive experience for our students, especially because many of them will be first-generation college students," said Gardiner teacher Danielle Tebon. "It's transformative to see how these field trips improve students' motivation and determination to do well in school as they become aware of the options open to them."

Vice principal honored as Mental Health Hero

In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month each May, Trillium Family Services honors 31 people or organizations who have supported mental and behavioral healthcare in Oregon. This year Kraxberger Middle School Vice Principal Jeff Waters is one of the Mental Health Heroes celebrated by the Keep Oregon Well campaign.

Waters spent last summer building and planning the new Student Wellness Center at Kraxberger Middle School. The soothing oasis offers students 15-minute appointments to practice self-calming and de-escalate strong emotions. In the first year of the program there have been 1,300 student visits, and the school has seen a decrease in discipline referrals and suspensions.

Waters will be recognized at Trillium's gala on May 18 and featured in the Keep Oregon Well social media campaign on May 28.

Club seeks to prevent drug use

According to research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of adults in the United States with substance-abuse issues and addictions began using before age 18, and about half of them before age 15.

A new after-school club at Gardiner Middle School is holding its first official meeting on May 9 just in time for National Prevention Week, May 12-May 18. The student-led, adult-guided club's goal is to engage youth, increase awareness about the effect of drugs, and build skills to support healthy choices. The club will serve as a pilot, and organizers hope to expand to Ogden Middle School this fall.

"Middle school is a critical time when youth need to know the facts about vaping and drug use," said Oregon City Police School Resource Officer Spencer Rohde, who is spearheading the club's development along with school leadership. "In my work, I deal with the consequences of unfortunate choices, so I know firsthand the importance of prevention. Why wait until there is a problem?

"Many middle school students think vaping or using marijuana will not harm them," Rohde added. "When they understand how the human brain develops, they may realize how vulnerable they are to addiction and other issues."

Rohde serves as a board member of Oregon City Together (OCT), a local community coalition of concerned parents, youth, community and school leaders; elected officials; and representatives from law enforcement, faith-based groups, organizations serving youth, neighborhoods and government agencies. It focuses on preventing youth marijuana and alcohol use.

Oregon City Together is working with local middle-school leaders to provide education for parents during National Prevention Week. A parent event called "No Fooling About Juuling" will take place at Eastham School from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 15. The program focused on rising e-cigarette use by teens repeats on May 21 at the Pioneer Community Center. Interested parents of Oregon City middle-schoolers should go to octogether.org for information and to RSVP.

National Prevention Week is an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness and action around mental health and substance-use disorders. It is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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