Spring and summer have been a busy time for Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community (BPHC). Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been up to:
Honoring the Roots of Prevention
In April we hosted our annual Roots of Prevention Award Celebration and celebrated our 10th year as a coalition. Over one hundred people gathered at ECHO Center to honor Burlington’s prevention heroes. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger kicked off the celebration with a tribute to the efforts being made by local coalitions to combat the opioid crisis. Vermont State Attorney General, T.J. Donvan, gave a rousing speech emphasizing inclusion, equity and opportunity as the foundation of prevention work. Two middle school students from BPHC’s BE Above prevention group presented information about the dangers of the rampant vaping and Juuling trends among their peers.
This year’s honorees included Burlington Soccer leaders Bob Day, Fran Demasi, and Jack Myers who received the Outstanding Program Award. Alison Segar, a self-identified “soccer mom”, shared how the three men were instrumental in helping bring young men from diverse backgrounds together through a love of soccer.
King Street Center’s Education Director, Deena Murphy, was honored with a Families & Children Award for her tireless work helping kids in Burlington access healthy activities that nurtured their minds & bodies. King Street Center’s Executive Director, Vicky Smith, praised Murphy for her dedication to the well-being of each student she interacts with and her inspiring curiosity.
A dozen Burlington High School International Club members received the Outstanding Group Award in the company of their school advisor Susan Blethen and local pediatrician Andrea Green. Several students took turns sharing the story of the “All Are Welcome” symbol that they created and distributed as a way of sharing their message that Vermont was a tolerant and inclusive community.
Burlington High School student, Hawa Adam, received the DG Weaver Award, for her creative approach to prevention advocacy through poetry and performance art. Hawa’s commitment to social justice & prevention work was hailed by Emerge Vermont Executive Director Ruth Hardy and fellow BHS student Balkisa Abdikadir.
BPHC Director, Mariah Sanderson, highlighted the common thread among this year’s award recipients: supporting efforts, programs & initiatives that ensure making the healthy choice the easy choice by standing up for the most vulnerable in our community.
To nominate a prevention hero for next year’s celebration, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/RootsOfPrevention.
Dr. Mykee Fowlin’s One-Man Show “Shakes Up” the Burlington High School Student Body
Also in April our Above the Influence youth prevention group sponsored a performance by psychologist, poet, and actor Dr. Michael (Mykee) Fowlin. Mykee delivered a thought-provoking and deeply moving one-man show, You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me, at an all-school assembly. Above the Influence member and Burlington High School senior Balkisa Abdikadir approached Mykee after the show to thank him and share how profoundly his performance had resonated with her experiences. “You really saw us,” Abdikadir said, “We are one of those schools that has so much diversity, but we are not taking the time to really appreciate one another. We self-segregate. I want to see us come together and I so hope your performance will encourage us to make a change.” BPHC’s Development and Youth Programming Coordinator, Tara Rueckert, also hopes that Mykee’s performance will inspire action. “We know that when young people are in environments that encourage self-acceptance and provide support, they are much more likely to make healthy decisions about substance use,” stated Rueckert.
Sticker Shock Makes Waves Across Burlington
In May we hosted another annual event, Project Sticker Shock. Research shows that more teens die from drinking and driving during prom and graduation than at any other time of year. We recognize how important it is to remind adults to support our youth in making healthy and legal decisions about alcohol use.
This year prevention group students and BPHC staff were joined by Burlington community members and Vermont Department of Liquor Control investigators. Everyone worked together to place bright stickers on alcoholic beverages and on alcohol cooler windows at local alcohol retailers in Burlington. The stickers and window clings read: “Hey there, please keep this out of the hands of minors. Providing alcohol to people under 21 may result in fines up to $2,000 and 2 years in jail.”
Shamura Awayle, BE Above member and Hunt Middle School 8th grader indicated that she believes the Sticker Shock project is important to the Burlington community because “[the project] involves so many members of the community and educates adults…adults are vital for preventing underage drinking.”
We Have a Ton to Celebrate
More good news! This year’s Take Back Day was a huge success! People around the state brought in three tons of prescription medication on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
The 6,008 pounds of unused, unwanted, or expired medication was turned over to local and state police, and county sheriff departments, rather than be available in homes where it could be abused.
Locally, Chittenden County residents turned in 1942.59 pounds of prescription drugs to 11 different collection sites. Thanks to our community’s efforts nearly a ton of unsafe drugs are now in safe hands and out of our homes, rivers & lakes!
Zooming In on the Impact of Big Tobacco in Burlington: A photo documentary
In June, students from our Be Above group decided to document the saturation of tobacco advertising & tobacco products in the neighborhood around their school. They found piles of cigarette butts, advertisements that use youth-friendly messaging, and signs celebrating the arrival of a new, highly addictive product.
The students wanted to share what they found with their community. They selected photos and captioned them with information about why the images are concerning. Use of a prominent, temporarily vacant storefront on a prime location on Church Street was generously donated to the group.
Tatiana Byam, an Edmunds Middle School student and BE Above member who worked on the project, said “When people see our project, I want them to take away from it that kids are always seeing these tobacco ads and products in their communities. Every single day they are blasted with them. We need to work together to prevent kids’ constant exposure to tobacco.”
Studies show that tobacco use is associated with exposure to retail advertising and relative ease of in-store access to tobacco products. Frequent exposure to tobacco product advertising and marketing at retail locations normalizes tobacco and smoking for youth over time and makes them more likely to smoke.
The photo documentary is currently on display at BPHC offices (236 Riverside Ave, Burlington VT 05402).
ParentIN Launches Summer Meet-Up Series
BPHC’s parenting education and support program, ParentIN, has launched a series of Meet-Ups for parents and caregivers of adolescents. Meet-Ups are opportunities to learn, share, ask questions, and find answers! Facilitated by Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services clinicians, the summer meet-up series will tap into a variety of skills, styles, and activities that recognize there are many ways for parents to learn and get support.
The remaining Meet-Ups will be held on Wednesdays (8/1, 8/22) 5:45 – 6:45 pm at the Fletcher Free Library.
Participants will be entered into a raffle for several exciting prizes that encourage spending quality time with your adolescent (some examples include cooking classes, paint or clay classes, and dinner & a movie)!
The series is FREE and open to anyone in Burlington who cares for an adolescent, so please help us spread the word. More details here.
Have a happy & safe summer from all of us at BPHC!