Conference to highlight community partners

A partnership between the school district and a local service agency will be highlighted at an upcoming regional conference.

Herkimer High School principal Mary Tomaso will join Melissa Snyder of the Herkimer County Prevention Council on a panel discussion at the CNY Prevention Conference in Syracuse on May 10.

The pair will join other agency representatives from the region to discuss “Building Successful Partnerships for Healthier Communities.”

Through the Prevention Council, Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School works with a prevention specialist, who helps support the school’s efforts to keep students free from alcohol and drug use and to support students’ mental health.

Prevention is the key

At Herkimer, prevention specialist Crystal Gerhardt works one-on-one and in groups with students, in and outside of the classroom, to educate students about healthy behaviors and support students who may be using drugs or alcohol.

Programs supported by the Prevention Council include the middle school Drug Quiz Team, information sessions for parents on topics such as dating violence, vaping, bullying and suicide; and school-wide events such as Red Ribbon Week.

According to Mrs. Tomaso, one of the strengths of the partnership is the expertise that the prevention specialist brings into the school environment. In addition to an extensive knowledge of evidence-based strategies to support students in being drug- and alcohol-free, the prevention specialist can help connect students and their families to community resources outside of the school.

A partnership of support

According to Melissa Snyder, the prevention program at Herkimer has been successful because of the district’s collaborative approach. The School Resource Officer and prevention services coordinator work together with the administration to identify students who may benefit from a voluntary intervention program.

The six-week Teen Intervene program helps students explore what may have motivated them to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco, and also provides risk screening that can identify students who could benefit from drug treatment.

“The school has done a great job of using that tool to encourage students to get help, instead of just disciplining them,” Snyder explained.

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