WaylandCares is a community coalition dedicated to reducing youth substance use and abuse in Wayland. We believe it is the collective responsibility of the community to create a safe environment for our young people, and to support healthy youth decision-making. This intergenerational initiative promotes a comprehensive prevention approach through effective, evidence-based and age-appropriate strategies. The origin of WaylandCares dates back to 1981 when, in response to a series of alcohol-related teen deaths in Wayland, students founded SADD (originally Students Against Drunk Driving and now Students Against Destructive Decisions) and school staff and parents began the Wayland Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force to address underage drinking and drug use. The Task Force became the umbrella organization for a multitude of ongoing activities designed to prevent adolescent substance use and to access treatment for those identified with an alcohol or drug problem.
In 2005, in response to more alcohol-related incidents involving Wayland teens, Wayland Public Schools applied for and received a three-year grant from the MetroWest Health Care Foundation to build a community coalition, strengthen curricula for secondary school health education, and create new ways to intervene and support youth with substance abuse issues. A prevention specialist was hired to direct the project and lead the community in a best-practice, research-based prevention approach. Through this funding initiative, the Task Force worked to expand the network of people and organizations collaborating to address teen substance use and abuse in Wayland. Membership was broadened to include clergy, business, health professions, parents and more youth to develop a strong community-based structure. The organization renamed itself the Wayland Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and began a public health approach – moving beyond the narrower focus of changing individual teen behavior to also changing community norms and policies that allow alcohol and drug use among teens to take root.
This broad collaboration of community members working together to implement best practices to prevent teen substance use and abuse enabled the Coalition to qualify for funding under a federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant. In October, 2008, with Wayland Public Schools as the fiscal agent, the Wayland Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition received a five year, $625,000 federal grant.
In 2010, in recognition of the broad understanding of the many factors of healthy decision-making and prevention, the Coalition changed its name to WaylandCares. The group continues to bring stakeholders and community resources together to address issues of substance abuse education, prevention, and intervention in Wayland. The goals of the Coalition are to raise community awareness about youth substance abuse and prevention through education, social marketing, and advocacy and to strengthen the community infrastructure to address youth substance abuse.
Membership and Organizational Structure
WaylandCares membership includes youth, parents, school administrators and staff, health care professionals, leaders of various civic organizations, the Wayland Police Department, the Wayland Clergy Association, Wayland Youth and Family Services, the Wayland Health Department, members of the Wayland business community and members of the media. Meetings are held monthly throughout the school year and the exact schedule can be found here. The Coalition is an open group and welcomes new participants at any time.
WaylandCares is governed by an Executive Committee whose members are either elected or appointed. A Chairperson and Secretary are elected by the general membership. The Superintendent of Schools and the Chief of Police each appoint a representative of their respective organizations. The Youth Advisory Committee appoints an employee of Wayland Youth and Family Services. The Chairperson of WaylandCares can appoint up to six Members-at-Large. Each appointed position serves a one year term while the elected officers serve a two-year term.
There are currently three sub-committees: membership, communication, and action. Other ad-hoc committees are formed as needed. The membership committee develops the relationship between WaylandCares and other organizations in town as well as recruiting new members. The communication committee is responsible for managing the Coalition’s website and Facebook account as well as assisting with publicity of any events. The action committee identifies and organizes programs for students and community members.
Objectives and Goals
The focus of the Drug Free Communities grant is to increase the Coalition’s capacity and reduce youth substance abuse in Wayland. Through partnership with community agencies, WaylandCares works to strengthen policies and practices associated with teen drug and alcohol use and promote and implement research-based best practices for community prevention programming. By creating community-wide infrastructure that works to educate students and parents and change community norms, the Coalition will effect a long-term decline in underage, illegal use of alcohol and other drugs.
Under the DFC grant, the Coalition is charged with improving four key measurements: the age of onset of use of alcohol and marijuana, 30-day use of alcohol and marijuana among middle school and high school students, increasing student perception of harm, and increasing student perception of parent disapproval. The latter two measurements are proven significant preventive factors in a youth’s decision to use. Data is gathered through the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is a comprehensive survey administered at Wayland Middle School and High School every two years.
Programs and Activities
The Coalition coordinates, sponsors, and supports a wide variety of activities and programs in Wayland schools and the community.
Specific High School curricula are funded through the DFC grant. AlcoholEdu, an on-line program, is offered to all freshmen as part of the health and wellness course. (There is also a parents’ version of AlcoholEdu available on-line through WaylandCares’ website: http://waylandcares.org/2010/12/ Sophomores receive Class Action, a highly interactive curriculum in which students study a variety of cases involving alcohol and then present the evidence and case law to the rest of the class to decide guilt or innocence and assess the financial penalty. Cases include social host law, bodily harm, and vandalism, among others.
In addition to curriculum, WaylandCares has provided funding for student programs such as events held after the home football games in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2102 school years. Speakers for students have included Dr. Richard Schwartzstein, an ER doctor who explains through a case example how alcohol poisoning impairs breathing and other bodily functions and can lead to death, as it did for the MIT student presented in the case. Dr. Schwartzstein usually speaks with all students of the Junior class in the spring of the school year. Other speakers have included Kathi Meyer, the mother of a high school student who died as a result of drinking. Ms. Meyer spoke with all students of the Freshman and Sophomore classes in spring, 2010.
Beginning in the fall of the 2010-2011 school year and continuing into this school year is a student social norms campaign. According to student survey data collected in the spring of 2010, students’ perception of alcohol and marijuana use by a typical WHS student is much higher than actual use, (a finding that is also supported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey results). The goal of this social norms campaign is to promote the positive messages that most Wayland High School students do not drink alcohol or smoke marijuana. By bringing perception of use more in line with actual use, it is anticipated that actual use will decline over time.
Recognizing that students’ perception of parental disapproval is a protective factor in teens’ decision to drink alcohol or use marijuana, WaylandCares sponsors programs for parents (and parents and students jointly) to provide information on the risks of using alcohol or marijuana. Past programs include a book group discussion of From Binge to Blackout followed by a presentation by the authors, Chris and Toren Volkmann. In March, 2011, WaylandCares sponsored a panel discussion about marijuana with two doctors presenting information about how marijuana affects the developing adolescent brain and short-term and long-term effects. Two youth in recovery and the mother of one of the teens also discussed their experiences and a legal expert provided clarification and updates on Massachusetts and local ordinances relative to marijuana use and possession.
In recognition of the range of factors influencing teens and their behavior, WaylandCares sponsored a book group discussion and follow-up discussions of The Price of Privilege and held a screening of the film Race to Nowhere.
Plans for the current year include continuation of the student social norms campaign, a new parent social norms campaign based on data collected from a parent survey and the student surveys. In November, 2011, Wayland High School students presented to the community the results of the most recently administered Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In March, 2012, a comprehensive health and wellness program will be offered to adults and middle and high school students in the Wayland community.
The Coalition will continue to plan programming and prevention activities to address emerging local trends that effect Wayland youth and healthy teen decision-making.