- Big Lake Schools
High School's New Diversion Program
With the growing concern of e-cigarette usage and vaping among youth, Big Lake High School is committed to helping students understand the dangers of vaping and the potential impact it has on their health. As one of the founding members of the Sherburne County Substance Use Prevention (SUP) Coalition and Vice Chair, Big Lake High School Assistant Principal Angie Charboneau-Folch saw the need to help with preventive strategies among youth.
The SUP Coalition is a community organization comprised of youth, parents, county staff, school leaders, law enforcement and community groups that are working together to reduce drug use among adults and youth in Sherburne County. As a member of the SUP Coalition since 2012, Charboneau-Folch has helped spearhead preventive efforts in the community. Their focus is changing the community environment that leads to youth substance use by identifying and implementing strategies that will affect community attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs around alcohol and other drugs. A result of their efforts was the creation of the student group, EPIC, in the high school. This group of students are committed to making everyday positive choices, and staying chemical free.
Last spring, the SUP Coalition launched the “Talk Early, Talk Often” campaign which was developed to help educate and empower parents to have ongoing conversations with young people in their lives around drugs and alcohol. In 2016, approximately 17 percent of Sherburne County 8th, 9th, and 11th grade students reported past 30-day e-cigarette use on the Minnesota Student Survey. The usage of e-cigarettes and vaping among youth has become a national epidemic. Vaping devices are now being designed to be easily concealed and can even look like a USB drive. Products for e-cigarettes may contain as much nicotine in a pod cartridge as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. These products are addictive and can expose youth to other harmful chemicals as well.
“We are equally concerned with our students using these various vaping devices and we are working hard to address this issue”, says Charboneau-Folch. As a result of this concern, Big Lake High School has developed a new diversion program. The goal of this diversion program is to promote a student’s understanding on the topic of vaping and the potential impact on their health. This diversion program is an online course that will cover topics such as effects on the brain, risks associated with vaping, and developing a quit plan.
Students with an e-cigarette violation are required to complete the diversion program and answer questions about chemical health. “The most important piece of our diversion program is after completing the quizzes, they will need to develop a quit plan. We want our students to have the tools and resources to be successful going forward, and to eliminate their use of harmful chemicals”, says Charboneau-Folch.
The SUP Coalition encourages parents and guardians to use resources on their website to talk early and talk often with the young people in their lives about the dangers of using e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. These resources can be accessed here: www.sherburnesupcoaliton.org