Pubdate: Fri, 09 May 2014
Source: Oxbow Herald, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2014 TC Media
Author: Matt Gardner


As Community Mobilization Prince Albert continues to develop a 
city-wide alcohol strategy, Carlton Comprehensive Public High School 
is honing its own approach to youth alcohol and drug use.

Rather than a program specifically related to the issue, the school 
has adopted a comprehensive strategy characterized by a focus on 
student connectedness and extracurricular activities.

The former may be best summarized by the school's ongoing "You 
Matter" campaign. On the first day of the current school year, staff 
members all wore T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "You Matter."

"It's a pretty strong message to send that we have banded together 
and that we are here for you as a student and care about the 
community that we have here," vice principal Jeff Court said.

"There's lots of different things that go into this, like 
extracurricular activities and the number of kids that participate in 
those activities in the school, the different programming options 
that we have and students feeling engaged in those things ... Giving 
kids more options to be a part of something bigger, it gives them 
more options to do something that's a positive rather than going down 
the road of ... addictions." Court's discussion of the school's 
approach to drugs and alcohol came after a presentation earlier in 
the week by University of Regina researcher Jason Fenno, entitled An 
Examination of Youth Alcohol and Drug Use in Prince Albert.

Collecting data with the help of Prince Albert Hub and COR staff, 
Fenno administered surveys at four local high schools, including Carlton.

"What basically it showed was in Prince Albert, our youth are using 
alcohol and drugs at an earlier age and at a quite an alarming rate 
in comparison to (the) Canadian norm and Saskatchewan norm," Court said.

Self-reported rates of alcohol use by Prince Albert youth of once a 
week or more, as well as two or three times per month, are more than 
double the national average and substantially higher than the 
provincial average.

The same holds true for the self-reported age of onset for alcohol 
use, with the number of youth in Prince Albert who begin drinking at 
age 14 or age 12 and younger double the national average.

However, Court pointed to other, relatively positive findings from the study.

"The rate in Prince Albert, we are at par with Saskatchewan for (the) 
norm for students feeling safe in their schools," he noted. "We're 
about 10 per cent higher than Saskatchewan and Canada for feeling 
that teachers are treating students fairly.

"Happiness within the school is again 10 to 12 per cent higher, and 
feeling closely connected to somebody in the school is also higher 
than any of the other areas."

Where Carlton is concerned, the school's primary methods for reducing 
youth alcohol and drug use consist of making students feel more 
connected to something larger than themselves, building relationships 
and offering a range of more constructive activities.

"A positive experience in the school shows that there would be a 
decrease in alcohol use just because there's other things for them to 
do ... (Feeling) more connected to the school and school community 
just shows positive attributes throughout the rest of their lives and 
(being) able to continue on and to be a positive member of the 
community is ultimately what it is," Court said.

Another element of Carlton's approach to drugs and alcohol is the 
presence of other community organizations at the school, which Court 
likened to a "mini-Hub type of situation."

Local agencies with a presence at the school include addictions 
services and mental health services -- both through the Prince Albert 
Parkland Health Region -- as well as a school liaison officer from 
the local police

"We've got mental health workers that come in and work two days a 
week (and) we've got an addictions services worker that's here four 
days a week," Court said.

He added, "We've got a school liaison officer here that's through 
city police ... He's more involved in the community engagement side 
of things and making positive relationships with students and doing 
presentations and those types of things.

"But to have those resources right in your building is a unique 
thing, and you're able to solve a number of different things here 
right in the facility before they have to go anywhere else."

While Carlton continues to refine its approach, the Saskatchewan 
Rivers Public School Division (SRPSD) as a whole has helped 
contribute to the development of a wider community alcohol strategy.

SRPSD director of education Robert Bratvold noted that students from 
the division's high schools have been an active part of Community 
Mobilization Prince Albert's ongoing focus groups and consultations.

With two students representing each school on the division's Student 
Voice group, a selection of those students (Bratvold estimated 15 out 
of a total of 22 students) has taken part in the consultations.

"We've been part of that structure and contributing to the 
development of that community plan," Bratvold said.

"In terms of our system, I think how I would describe it is we've got 
an increased level of awareness ... Each school's kind of tailored to 
what they see is most needed, and most of it would be probably 

While the education sector is playing a role in the development of a 
community alcohol strategy, Bratvold noted that the project is a joint effort.

"Certainly we can do lots as an education system and one of the 
leaders in the community," he said. "But I know it's got to be our 
whole community working together on this."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom