School Assembly Will Target Drug Abuse

Recovering addicts are among those scheduled to speak

By Alex Kopish, Editor in Chief

The West Bend high schools will hold an anti-drug presentation for students on Jan. 28.

“There’s an understanding in our community that there’s an epidemic here and it’s killing our youth,” assistant principal Dave Uelmen said. “Education is the key.”

The presentation is scheduled to last an hour and a half during the school day. Juniors and seniors will attend from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and freshmen and sophomores will attend from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The presentation was set up by Jennifer Mesko, a speech-language pathologist at the high schools. “This presentation is geared to be highly emotional, something proven to be effective with the adolescent brain,” Mesko said in an email sent to teachers. “Our hopes are that this presentation will empower students with the facts about the physical and mental harm of drugs and the effect on their lives,” Mesko said.

The presentation’s panel of speakers include Mark Sette, a Washington County detective; Matt Nirschl, a parent of a current addict; Ryan Van Camp, the brother of Ben Van Camp who died of an overdose; Amy and Katie, two former addicts; and a duo called Rise Together who are former addicts who travel the state to help inform adolescents about drug issues.

“I’ve actually heard Rise Together before, and it’s very powerful. They talk about their lives and how they got into using drugs and what their lives were like and how they pulled themselves out of it,” school counselor Nicole Miller said. “I expect that students are going to be moved by the people who are talking.”

“The reaction for some will be eye-opening, for others it’ll be a wake-up call.”
– Dave Uelmen, assistant principal

“Our school needs this because drugs and alcohol are a problem in our society today,” Uelmen said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the percent of Wisconsin high school students who have tried cigarette smoking is 41% and the percent of high school students who have tried an alcoholic drink is 39%.

“Let’s face it, we’re in Wisconsin, we live in a culture where it’s socially acceptable to consume alcohol and over-consume alcohol, too,” Uelmen said. “It’s kind of a gateway for us. If you read just the West Bend News and the number of 18 to 25-year-olds who are dying, they are dying for a reason and it’s not natural causes,” Uelmen said.

The school hopes that testimonials will help students to recognize the very real dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. “Anytime you hear somebody’s own personal story it will really touch everybody and make everybody hopefully look at their own lives and their own mortality,” Miller said.

“The reaction for some will be eye-opening, for others it’ll be a wake-up call and I just hope it reaches enough of the students,” Uelmen said.

“I always think that it’s good for students to hear about other students or other individuals who have been in a situation, or it’s touched their lives in some way,” Miller said. “Maybe it will help them to make better choices when they are faced with the situation of potentially using drugs.”

Uelmen also runs the Spartan/Sun Community Program for the school and said, “I’m taking money out of my budget to bring [those students] over in buses. I want them to see this as well.”

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