Straight talking youth awarded $625K for drug prevention

Members of Reeths-Puffer High School’s Straight Talk About Tough Stuff (STATS) Coalition recently learned they will receive a $125,000 Drug-Free Communities Support Program Grant each year for the next five years. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, awarded the grant to the coalition that includes students, educators, community leaders, the Health Project of Mercy Health, and Muskegon Township Police.

STATS Coordinator Jennifer LaChapelle of the Health Project said this grant is unique because it gives youth a voice. “STATS has always focused on peer leadership. This focus will become even stronger as youth are given more opportunities to engage in activities and learning. Some will even participate in a national conference,” said LaChapelle.  

Since it was established in 2018, the STATS Coalition offers youth membership incentives and puts data-informed plans into action to raise awareness of the risks, dangers, legal and social consequences of tobacco, marijuana, vaping and other kinds of drugs. It also provides peer education through the STATS Youth Leadership Program and provides pro-social opportunities for youth. This work continues the legacy of Reeths-Puffer’s first STATS student group established in 1998.

Grant funds will pay for community and youth engagement activities, family social events, after school activities, and training opportunities for youth. “All of these events will promote ways to keep youth from using substances or assist them with finding support to stop using substances,” said LaChapelle. It will also cover project personnel, STATS program expenses (supplies, food, student retreat costs), and anti-drug marketing, as well as Drug Free Coalition training for grant staff and grant management costs.

Community members can also expect to see an increase in messaging encouraging youth to stay away from substances throughout the community. “Our students are excited to expand their positive impact on youth throughout our greater community,” said LaChapelle.

The grant will help offset the costs of the “Ride with Pride” program at Reeths-Puffer and continued efforts with the “facethebook”
campaign. Both programs encourage safe behaviors and recognize youth who are making positive choices by making them eligible
for a host of prizes, including a car.

According to LaChapelle, the biggest change from the current program is the opportunity for growth. In the past members of STATS
were limited to students that have time in their schedules to travel to other schools during school days. With this new grant, there
will now be multiple ways for students to be involved in the program that are more accommodating to their busy schedules.

This grant picks up where the former Mercy Health Drug Free Coalition grant left off and will allow the STATS program to continue. When the grant expires, the STATS’ Coalition will have the opportunity to apply for 5 additional years of funding.

# # #