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Families connect and learn together through new program for children ages birth to 5 years old (Photo) - 09/21/16

Twenty-five children and their parents turned out to participate in a fun learning experience at the first 1-2-3 Grow and Learn group event September 14 at Hathaway Elementary.

The free parent and child play group was the first of a weekly series to be offered at Hathaway this year. The sessions provide early social and educational experiences that are aligned with state standards and lay the foundation for later school involvement.

Families participated in circle time, individual play time and a group activity. Facilitator Julie Jacobson of Educational Service District 112 sent families home with activities and tips for learning at home and plans to email participants information about each week's class in advance.

After observing the program's success at other schools, Developmental Preschool Coordinator Leslie DeShazer and Family Resource Coordinator Nancy Nass-Boon wanted to bring the learning groups to Washougal. "We are hoping to ease the transition to elementary school and give parents an opportunity to see what they can be doing at home to help prepare children for future success," said DeShazer. She was pleased with the turnout of families for the group's first event. "It was really fun to see how much the children liked it and the parents enjoyed it too. Parents made connections and were able to talk with others who have children the same age. It's a great way for families to begin an early relationship with the Washougal School District."

By connecting with families before children reach preschool or school age, staff are also able to identify early-on children who could benefit from developmental interventions.

In addition to socialization and school readiness, the program is involved in leading-edge child development research, having partnered with a researcher at the University of Washington as an innovation cluster site for Frontiers of Innovation--a Harvard study designed to use science to improve the daily lives of families and children.

All children (not just Hathaway families) are welcome to attend the free classes, which will be offered Wednesdays from 9-10:30 through June 7 at Hathaway Elementary. No registration is required, parents and children may drop in each week or as they are available. For more info contact Nancy Nass-Boon at 954-3809.

White House Drug Policy Office Awards $625,000 to Local Coalition to Prevent Youth Substance Use in Washougal - 09/15/16

UNITE! Washougal Community Coalition has been award a $625,000 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant to involve and engage their local community to prevent substance use among youth.

Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), announced last week all 698 grants, totaling $85.9 million, for Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Programs across the country, including Washougal. Grants awarded through the DFC Support Program are intended to support established community-based youth substance use prevention coalitions capable of effecting community level change.

"Our goal is to make Washougal a safe and healthy place for our youth," said Heather Jordan, member of the Washougal grant writing committee. "Prevention is a powerful tool to counteract youth substance abuse in our community, and we will use this funding to help youth in Washougal make healthy choices."

The local grant will be administrated by Washougal School District. The overall grant program is administered by The Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP).

"A primary goal of the grant is to reduce substance use among youth," said Mike Stromme, Ed.D. Washougal School District Superintendent. Over time this work is intended to reduce substance abuse among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.

"Another important goal is to support collaboration among coalitions and other public and private agencies working on the issues surrounding substance use among youth," he added.

Stromme pointed out that it is extremely rare for an organization to receive DFC grant funding on their first request. "This was a Herculean effort with many people in our community stepping up to help," he said. The group also studied the work of other local DFC grant winners and learned from their successful efforts.

UNITE! would like to thank members of the grant writing committee for their dedication of a tremendous amount of time and dedication to bring resources to our wonderful Washougal community. Members were Dr. Mike Stromme, Dr. Patricia Boles, Les Brown, Allan Fleck, Jen Fleck, Betty Gable, Larry Mayfield, Denise Livingston, Monica Kok, Sharon Bischoff, Mona Al-Dalaan, Rhea Bohlin, Deb Drandoff, Heather Jordan, Paul Greenlee, Robert Barber, Nancy Boon, Lisa Leonard, Lisa Young, Caleb Bischoff, Bridgette McCarthy, Scott Anderson, Sydney Mederos, Carson Connors, Debra Connors, Michael Stevens, Ann Stevens, Joy Lyons, Lucy Ann Kendall, Tiffany Schwieterman, and Awna Underwood.

The following were community Sector Representatives who lent their perspective to help engage the community in the grant process: Parent, Debra Connors; Business, Courtney Wilkinson; Media, Matthew Buitron; School, Stromme; Youth-serving organization-Children's Home Society, Mackenzie Dunham; Law enforcement-Washougal Police Department, Chief Ron Mitchell; Religious/Fraternal organization, Robert Barber, St. Mathew's Lutheran; Youth, Bridgette McCarthy, STASHA, Clark County Youth Commission; Civic/Volunteer groups, Washougal Lions, Peter Anderson; Healthcare professional, Dr. Dino Ramzi; Local government, Paul Greenlee. Another organization involved in reducing substance abuse-Community Services Northwest, Steven Morrison

"The Drug-Free Communities Support Program makes a vital difference at the community level -- reaching out to people where they live with the help they need to prevent substance use," said SAMHSA Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto. "SAMHSA is honored to join the Office of National Drug Control Policy in working with community coalitions across the nation to create healthy and drug-free environments for children, youth, and families."