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Kids send messages of safety to prom-goers

There will be no mock car crashes or helicopter landings as safety reminders to students going to prom this Saturday at Austin High School.

Instead, students from two local elementary schools wrote letters to prom-goers, urging them to stay safe on prom night.

Second- and third-grade students from Banfield and Neveln elementary schools wrote letters to each of the over-250 prom-goers this year as part of the school district’s new Positive Community Norms (PCN) method to reduce use of illegal substances.

Examples of letters that will be handed out to students at this year’s Austin prom Saturday night. Photos provided

“Be safe and put your phone away while you drive! Be responsible! Be respectful! Use your manners and have a night to remember!” wrote one second grader.

“Do your best at dancing, look your best! Make good choices and be safe,” said another second grader.

“Our students enjoyed writing messages to their high school counterparts,” said Neveln Principal Dewey Schara. “This year we decided to focus on the positives of being safe.”

On the evening of prom, students attending will each receive a special message from an elementary student. These messages remind students to be safe, be respectful and, as another student mentioned, to “bring a first-aid kit in case [they] break a bone [while dancing].” In addition to a message, some students drew pictures for their new high school friends.

“The message is simple: have fun, but make smart and safe choices,” said Bill Spitzer, PCN coordinator. “Our goal is to highlight to positive.”

Spitzer brought the idea forward after using it with a similar initiative he led in St. Charles.

“It was very successful,” said Spitzer, adding that prom-goers were impressed — even emotional — when they realized that their younger counterparts cared so much.

“It illustrated that they cared,” he said. “It really made an impression.”

The message of safety comes from the Austin Positive Action Coalition, created as a result of a five-year planning and implementation grant focused on reducing alcohol use by using PCN messages. The messages are part of the “Truth Is” media campaign that promotes PCN messages throughout the Austin community. The grant helps enhance a prevention curriculum in the schools and establishes a student positive action group. The student group allows young people to organize and implement chemical-free activities as well as give them leadership opportunities. The grant is made possible by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, ADAD and hosted locally by the Parenting Resource Center.