By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
The Sky Valley Community Coalition welcomed some new faces last week, including Sultan’s new police chief, Monte Beaton.
Made up of local residents, business owners and city officials, as well as the police chief, the coalition is a Sultan-based organization that was formed to help reduce the negative impacts of drug and alcohol abuse in the Sky Valley, particularly among the youth.
A key aspect of the coalition has been the involvement of local students who make up the youth coalition. The youth coalition was responsible for creating the organization’s slogan “Want More” earlier this year that was designed to engage and inspire people to want more out of life.
“When you want more, you won’t settle for less,” said Coalition Chairperson Sarah Davenport-Smith.
The group began to take shape in 2010, becoming more formally established in 2011 as Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick, former Police Chief Jeff Brand, Sultan Volunteers of America Director Dave Wood and Davenport-Smith recognized the need to be proactive in the fight against substance abuse in the community.
Then the coalition suffered a setback in September of 2011 when Wood, who had become ill, died.
In 2012 the group began functioning again, and with the help of prevention specialist and Sultan City Councilmember Joe Neigel, was able to obtain a Snohomish County grant which was specifically designed for planning and achieving drug-free communities. The coalition developed their five-year strategic plan and has been meeting regularly since then.
Last week’s meeting was focused on the next steps for the coalition, which will involve generating additional interest in the community.
The group is getting ramped up for the new school year, and the younger members are starting to plan ways to increase their outreach, including recruiting additional members.
Currently three members-strong, the youth coalition is planning to give a presentation at Sultan High School sometime this fall. They are also working to develop a display area at the school that will feature the Want More logo along with the idea behind the catchphrase.
Dakota Turner, a student at Sultan High School, was involved in the youth coalition last year. He described the purpose behind the Want More campaign, which was “to try and influence people to stay away from drugs.”
Turner will be a junior this year. Two other high school students are participating in the youth coalition; Nicholas Sorgen and Michael Vannatta, who will both be sophomores this fall. Additional youth are being strongly encouraged to become involved and to be advocates for remaining drug and alcohol free.
Community involvement along with student involvement are both key for the coalition, as is involvement among law enforcement.
Chief Beaton was the police chief in Darrington for over four years before he came to Sultan. He brings with him his experience in working with the youth in Darrington, where he was involved in the local substance abuse coalition, the Darrington Prevention Intervention Community Coalition.
Beaton talked about his work with Darrington’s coalition and the challenges of working in such an isolated community.
For some kids there just isn’t anything to do up there except get into trouble, said Beaton.
Beaton stated that he always tried to let young people know that getting caught using drugs and alcohol can destroy options for the future. Getting into trouble “closes a lot of doors,” said Beaton.
“If you get caught, it’s got these consequences. And if you don’t get caught it could be even worse,” said Beaton.
Youth who get a certain number of minor in possession of alcohol infractions face the possibility of being unable to get their driver’s license on time. Kids can also unwittingly eliminate the possibility of ever joining the military, and their chances of obtaining stable employment opportunities after earning a criminal record are negatively impacted, as well.
He discussed the importance of having things in Sultan for young people to do.
“For me it was sports,” said Beaton. “It’s a scientific fact that we are not made to sit, we are made to move. And if we get up and move, we will sleep better, we will learn better, we will act better.”
The Sky Valley Community Coalition meets once a month at the Mountainview Christian Fellowship in Sultan. For additional information on the Coalition, please see the Coalition’s Facebook page at: http://tinyurl.com/skyvalleycoalition.