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Balloon event kicks off youth project
23 September 2008

BISMARCK (UTN) - A score of brightly colored orbs drifting aloft like silent prayers to the Creator marked the start of a new educational project at United Tribes Technical College that promises to help youngsters learn to avoid alcohol.

      The Circle of Youth Dream Catcher Project began September 11 with a balloon release from the front entrance of the United Tribes Wellness Center. It was the starting event for after school activities one day per week until next June for students attending Theodore Jamerson Elementary School on the college campus.

Students and adults await the last beat of the drum and the last step of grass dancer Peanut Iron Star before releasing their balloons September 11 at United Tribes Technical College. The colorful event kicked off the “Circle of Youth Dream Catcher Project,” an alcohol prevention project focusing on grade school youth. United Tribes News photo Dennis J. Neumann.

      The project will engage youngsters in grades 4 to 6 with cultural and age appropriate instruction and activities in alcohol awareness and prevention.

      Alcohol is the most widely used substance that is abused by America’s youth. North Dakota ranks number one in the nation for underage drinking, and approximately three out of four teens who drink reported they started prior to age 13. Alcohol-related deaths among American Indians between ages 15 and 24 are 17 times higher than the national average for the same group.

      “Our aim is to change the social norm that has come to characterize alcohol use in the tribal family,” said Sheri Baker, UTTC Director of Community Wellness Services. “The approach is to use cultural values in the delivery of prevention education to the youngsters and their families. We know that prevention programs can play a vital role in the success of our youngsters who come from many different tribal nations.”

      Students who attend TJES are the children of college students attending UTTC. Some of the events and instruction will be targeted toward the young people and their families.

      Activities of the Circle of Youth Dream Catcher Project will emphasize strategies for saying “no” to alcohol and drugs. Participants will engage in role playing, critical thinking, and team building as they learn coping skills and how to develop their own personal support system. Topics will include communication, peer pressure, decision making and problem solving. They will also hear from guest speakers and prepare student and family wellness plans.

      The project coordinators are two members of the Department of Wellness Services: Ruth Buffalo-Zarazua and Julie Cain. Sheri Baker, will help with curriculum and assessment. Other UTTC personnel involved are counselors Betty Anhorn, Harriet Schneider, and Russell Gillette, instructor Sherri Toman and guest speaker Tom Disselhorst.

      Among the first assignments will be for each student to create a Native American Dream Catcher. Each youngster will add beads based on an on-going assessment of their participation and weekly learning.

      Healthy snacks will be provided along with incentives for participation.

       All events and activities will take place in the Lewis Goodhouse Wellness Center, located on the college campus just across the street from Theodore Jamerson Elementary School.

       The project was made possible with an $8,500 matching grant awarded by the Governor’s Prevention Advisory Council on Drugs and Alcohol. Funding comes from the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

       Matching funds and in-kind services were provided by the United Tribes Chemical Health Center, Strengthening Lifestyles Program, TJES and the college finance department.


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