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Growing the Good; APAC works with positive messages

Bill Spitzer

Billboards around Austin with the message “Truth is” have been a bit of a head-scratcher for some who are not sure of its meaning.

But the rest of that message is coming soon — next week, in fact.

Bill Spitzer, the planning and implementation grant coordinator for the Austin Positive Action Coalition — APAC — is working with students and the community to build a positive environment and promote a healthy and positive lifestyle without the need for alcohol or substances.

The billboards have been part of that community outreach, and they’re set to change from their present “Truth Is” slogan to a new billboard, which will finish the phrase, “Truth Is …” to heighten interest, said Spitzer, who delivered the first annual report of the coalition to the Austin School Board this week. He anticipated the new billboards to change early next week.

In its first year, APAC is working with students and the community to build a positive environment and promote a healthy and positive lifestyle without the need for alcohol or substances.

The Parenting Resource Center, with the help of the Austin Drug Task Force, received the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division grant in 2016 to address substance abuse issues in the community.

Spitzer said the coalition is working hard to use the Positive Community Norms approach, based on “the Science of the Positive,” the study of how positive factors impact culture and experience. Positive Community Norms closes the gap between what we believe to be true and what is actually true, according to the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services.

“We [the coalition] asked, how can we move us forward in a positive way,” Spitzer said. “Instead of focusing on the negative … it highlights and emphasizes the positive … and emphasizes the positive decisions students are making.”

The coalition held monthly meetings to discuss resources and strategies for preventing substance use and attended training sessions; the coalition also surveyed students on alcohol and drug use in March — 79 percent of the students completed the survey. Results from the first program year will prove interesting, Spitzer noted. Baseline information has come from the American Youth Survey.

The coalition is working on a new curriculum for next year’s middle and high school students, as well as leadership initiatives, including STAND (Students Taking a New Direction) for Austin High School and Pacelli High School students. STAND students have participated in Youth Leadership Academy, planning for events and the PCN approach.

Volunteers interested in becoming members of the coalition may do so by contacting Spitzer at 507-460-1800, extension 0361, or bill.spitzer@austink12.mn.us.

The coalition meets at 7 a.m. on the last Wednesday of each month.

APAC goals for the upcoming year

•Increase APAC’s presence by sharing the mission and successes with area businesses and organizations

•Have a presence at events, such as the Mower County Fair, Freedom Fest and homecoming parade

•Continue to develop and implement “Truth Is” media campaign

•Continue to work with law enforcement to prevent youth access to alcohol

•Continue to offer Responsible Beverage Server Training to local businesses and organizations

•Continue to cultivate positive role models, change student perceptions and reach more youth with the “Truth Is” campaign
—Source: APAC annual report