SoPo Drug Free Communities Coalition Partners with Local Schools, Community Organizations to Host ‘Parent Connector’ Events

Future Aspirations Event Participants

The South Portland (SoPo) Drug Free Communities Coalition (DFC): SoPo Unite-All Ages All In hosted a session for parents recently at the South Portland Community Center. The event featured a panel of high school seniors and a panel of community leaders, including Kevin Stilphen, the Director of PATHS (Portland Arts and Technology High School); Michele LaForge, Principal at South Portland High School; Lieutenant Todd Bernard of the South Portland Police Department; and Officer Caleb Gray, South Portland High School’s School Resource Officer. During the event, the students shared their hopes for the future, what is helpful and supportive in finding their path, and what can get in the way.

SoPo Unite hosts four “Parent Connector” events a year in a variety of neighborhoods throughout South Portland. The events include a range of topics connected to substance use prevention for youth. The most recent forum engaged parents in a discussion about the importance of students being future focused by exploring different paths toward achieving personal and professional goals.

“The goal is to educate parents on the importance for youth to have future aspirations, which is a ‘protective factor’ against substance use,” said Lee Anne Dodge, Program Director of SoPo Unite. She also noted that another important piece they share with parents during the Connector events is the impact of substance use on brain development and student potential.

The event was another success for SoPo Unite, sparking great discussion and questions among panelists and attendees. In the future they plan to have seniors speak to the junior class to share their advice on planning for after high school, and to have South Portland High School alum return to talk with current students about their experiences after high school.

The DFC Coalition: SoPo Unite-All Ages All In is one of eighteen DFC programs in Maine, and over 700 in the country. They work with twelve community sectors: youth, parents, schools, law enforcement, media, local officials, civic agencies, health care, youth, faith-based groups, other substance use prevention agencies, and businesses to bring awareness and education around substance use prevention for youth.

Lee Anne shared that research has shown that in communities where there is a DFC program, there are lower rates of substance use. “We just finished our first five years and were awarded another five years!”

For more information about DFC programs visit: Drug-Free Communities Support Program On the U.S. CDC Website or the national Drug-Free Communities (DFC) program website.