Thursday, October 23, 2014

Community encouraged to support "Be The Influence" By Michelle Libby

Tuesday night, Windham Police officer Matt Cyr and two eighth-grade students, Ashley Lewis and Griffin MacVane requested that the Town of Raymond sign a petition and join the Town of Windham, RSU14 School Board of Directors, the Windham Police Department, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, in the support of the “Be the Influence” campaign. The community wide crusade is to provide positive examples and information to keep teens away from drugs and alcohol. 
“We need to muster the community to be involved,” said Cyr. 

Cyr and the boys were joined by Windham High School assistant principal Kelli Deveaux and Jordan-Small Middle School and Raymond Elementary School guidance counselor LynnEve Davis as they explained that just having one group, the school for example, lecture the students about substance abuse isn’t good enough. They need to hear positive messages from every corner of the communities they live in. 

“We need federal funds to make this really big idea a really big success,” said Cyr, who has received the first grant of $60,000. 

The group was created with a lot of student input. The children didn’t want to be preached to. “Be the influence, decisions matter,” they told the group of adults gathered and the slogan was born. 

The middle school is the first time peers are more influential than parents and adults. However, what adults do in front of the teens is likely to have a direct impact over their choices, Davis told the Raymond Select Board. 

“Adults that think drinking is okay have teens that are two times as likely to drink,” said Davis. At the high school level, teens who have seen adults drunk or high in the last five years, are five times as likely to drink and four times as likely to use marijuana, she added. 

“Scare tactics don’t work,” said Deveaux. “Students need to feel valued and have a voice and a say.”
The program Be the Influence was created by the Be the Influence Collaborative whose membership includes RSU 14 school staff, Windham and Cumberland County Police officers, Town Managers, parents, local organizations, Chamber of Commerce, libraries, recreation departments, and community members. The campaign includes a website,, that offers information on preventing teens from using drugs and alcohol as well as supports available in the community for parents, community members and schools. 

The students, under the direction of Cyr, discuss being a leader and how not to follow people down the road of drugs and alcohol. 

“To be a leader is really to not go with the crowd. Leaders make an impact on the community. If you make a good decision the followers will follow you,” said MacVane. 

Aimee Senatore, the Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce said, “… businesses in Windham and Raymond have a responsibility to understand the challenges facing their communities and take an active role and stake in supporting this initiative… Substance abuse is hurting our companies’ bottom line and their ability to grow their business.”

As a current Drug free Community Coalition, Liz Blackwell-Moore, substance abuse prevention coordinator at The Opportunity Alliance, announced that the Public Health Program has $60,000 through the federal grant to mentor the Be the Influence Collaborative. “Through this grant, the Public Health program will be able to hire a part time coordinator for the Be the Influence Collaborative and will offer support to the Collaborative to write a full Drug Free Communities Grant in the spring which is worth up to $125,000 a year for 5 years.” 

The Windham Council recently passed a resolution to support the campaign. 

 At the launch event on Monday, Windham Town Manager Tony Plante said, “Substance abuse is a community problem that requires a community response. The mission of the Be the Influence Campaign is to promote community collaboration and positive choices in an effort to reduce substance use and abuse. ” 

The Raymond Select Board voted unanimously to sign the resolution and support the initiative.

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