News - Hero


Community forum set for end of the month.

Marney Simon
Staff writer

Braidwood teens know their way around.

That's one of several messages included in the results of the most recent Illinois Youth Survey, conducted in the Reed-Custer School District in October and November 2010.

Now, members of the Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition (BAHCC) are hoping that parents and community members will stand up and take notice of what the kids in town doing.

The BAHCC is planning a community forum for Monday, Jan. 31 at the Fossil Ridge Public Library. During the forum, the group will present the results of the Illinois Youth Survey, which was administered in the fall by Chestnut Health Systems under the direction of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). The bi-annual survey is conducted on school-aged children in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 on their attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol, tobacco, other drug use, violence, exercise and nutrition. The survey contains demographic items and several questions addressing the five domains of risk: community; family; school; peers; and individual. Results of the survey are used by the IDHS to determine the effectiveness of the state's prevention programs and to support communities in the use of data-driven decision making.

The survey is administered anonymously in order for students to feel free to be as honest as possible, thus providing the most concrete data available. That way, the BAHCC and the community as a whole are better equipped to come up with solutions for problems that are specific to Braidwood.

Included in the survey will be teen attitudes on drinking, smoking, marijuana use and use of elicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine. According to early results of the survey, Braidwood high school seniors especially have been exposed to many drugs, and have attitudes on drinking and drugs that may not necessarily conform with many adults in town. The BAHCC will provide for the public detailed survey results.

The meeting won't just be about the survey though. A panel of teens will be invited to answer questions, hopefully opening the door to better communication with adults in the community.

The forum will also include information on the Safe Homes program though the Reed-Custer School District and the BAHCC. Safe Homes is a community-wide network of parents. That network is listed in a pledge-based directory of students and their families. In that directory, parents pledge to supervise gatherings of youth at their homes, to set appropriate expectations and consequences for their children, to know where their children are and who they are with, and most importantly to pledge to provide a drug and alcohol free environment for children.

Paula Ekstrom, chair of the Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community, will also speak at the event about community involvement and preventative strategies that are being implemented in Wilmington through their sister-coaliton.

While the BAHCC is looking to increase public awareness in areas of substance abuse and prevention programs, the coalition is also looking to expand throughout the community. One of the goals of the BAHCC is to open lines of communication with area churches, to create a network of local leaders who can help provide social support."

To have somebody to call in a time of crisis is very powerful," Reed-Custer High School Principal Tim Ricketts said. Ricketts, who meets with coalition members monthly, said that the expansion of the BAHCC is only good news for the community."

We seem to be growing and that is encouraging," Ricketts added.The community forum is scheduled for Jan. 31 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Fossil Ridge Public Library in Braidwood. The public is encouraged to attend.