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Empower Fall Fest

Hosted by: Martin County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

Miss Minnesota (Elle Mark) conducted a student forum  for juniors and seniors at Fairmont Jr./Sr. High School and met with 6th–12th graders at Granada Huntley East Chain School for a “Real Talk” alcohol and drug prevention program during Red Ribbon Week. Ms. Mark visited with students in a casual setting in school common areas. She made herself available to answer questions about her Real Talk and 5 Healthy Habits of Emotional Well-Being initiatives and her run as Miss Minnesota.

Ms. Mark chose to focus on mental health wellness because it is something she struggled with as a young person, and she now hopes to help take down the stigmas associated with asking for help. Some of the main topics she spoke about are why young people choose to turn to substances and what the consequences are of those actions, along with steps for dealing with stress and peer pressure, and giving students the tools they need to say no to drugs and alcohol and to be healthy. She has a preventionist background, is very approachable, and connects on a real and personal level with students. She also appeared at a Fall Fest sponsored by Minnesota Community Action Partnership for Martin County students in grades 7–12 at the Fairmont mini-golf course, with prizes for best costume, cornhole games, mini-golf, pumpkin painting, free food, and more.

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How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?

Adults in our community have perpetuated the myth that you need to be drinking alcohol to have fun. It’s what they experienced as youth, and they are passing it on to the kids. So we’re combating an attitude of permissiveness and alcohol encouragement in our community. We are making headway, and the number of youth reporting that they’ve had a drink in the last 30 days is going down (Minnesota Student Survey 2016 and 2019 data). Unfortunately, it seems like vaping and marijuana are filling the gap. Many of our area youth (and adults) don’t see a problem with using marijuana and don’t understand how it affects a developing brain.

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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Reduce prevalence of underage drinking and other substances in community
  • Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
  • Create new resources/materials (e.g., publications, handouts, factsheets, videos, graphics) to support prevention of underage drinking and misuse of other substances
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What challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Lack of interest from the community
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How did you overcome these challenges?

Due to COVID-19, we didn’t have a lot of people attend the Fall Fest. Of those who did attend, we were happy to see that we had a lot of new participants that hadn’t come to previous events, such as a lot of the football players.

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What are your next steps?

  • Support new prevention policies, legislation, or social ordinances
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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • Prevention videos, such as College Drinking: Prevention Perspectives
  • Communities Talk planning guides
  • Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

Miss Minnesota, our coalition, and our area Empower youth groups all helped plan the Fall Fest. Area principals helped coordinate Miss Minnesota’s visits to the two schools. Our intended audience was youth. We had a discussion at two schools (to juniors and seniors at the first and 6th–12th graders at the second), and Miss Minnesota also mingled with the youth afterward in the lunchroom as well as in the neighborhood park. She also met again with youth at the park that night.

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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic did affect this activity. It meant we had smaller groups to address in our limited time, but we were able to host our Fall Fest outdoors before the snow in Minnesota began.

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