[Montana Prevention Coalition Communication Post – April 2017]
Gaining acceptance into a close-knit, rural community as an outsider is always difficult process. Here is my story from McCone County. ~ Melissa Kostelecky, District II Prevention Specialist.
Circle, with a population of roughly 600 people, is the McCone county seat and only town of significant size in this historic farming and ranching community. I live in Sidney, 75 miles away in Richland County. I grew up in much smaller Wibaux so I knew I could relate to a small town and was determined to see it through. In a year’s time, with trial and error, changing strategies, and locating a few kind people to carry the message without me around, we finally started to see some progress. During that time, I developed positive relationships and reassured the community that my role wasn’t to highlight problems but to assist in finding proactive solutions and overcome barriers. Now I am privileged to have the support of the McCone County Commissioners, the Public Health Nurse, the County Attorney, the Sherriff’s Office, the Circle Country Market and most importantly, the school staff and the school board. Recently, the school board asked if I could help incorporate prevention education into the prom and all that anticipatory time leading up to it. The school board felt as though the students knew they shouldn’t drink, but would benefit from some of the reasons why they shouldn’t that they could relate to in the context of the Prom. This launched the development of our multi-pronged awareness-raising “PROMise Campaign.” We began by creating a small card that gave 5 reasons why students should have an alcohol-free prom night, and had them attached to the prom tickets purchased by students. When the card was finished, the school board suggested a letter that could be sent home to the parents with 5 tips on how to keep their child alcohol-free on prom night. Again, this allowed them to choose the tips they felt would be a best fit for the parents of the students in their school. PROMise flyers were also created, the students placed them prominently around town and in the school. On the big night, tote bags with the PROMise logo were handed out that contained water bottles also wrapped in the logo along with other prevention education materials.