It is not an easy day and age in which to be a child or a parent. Each day in the news, we learn of new or ongoing issues that threaten the well-being and the future of our children. As superintendent, I have frequently expressed the sense of awesome responsibility as well as privilege that comes with being an educator. I have also expressed that each day when I come to work, I am aware that educators cannot do the job of ensuring bright futures for each child alone; nor can parents. We need help. We need community.
Because I have been asked as superintendent to be part of community efforts to address challenges to child welfare, I can attest with pride that our community responds. To each threat to our children, there is an aggressive and unified community response in motion. Because there is too much child sexual abuse (any at all is too much), there is a coalition called Enough Abuse, sponsored and supported by Dakota Medical Foundation. This coalition is training trainers to help raise awareness and help prevent this insidious problem. Participants in the coalition, which now has a core purpose, vision and strategic goals include social workers, educators, law enforcement, medical personnel, legislators, and agencies like Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.
The core purpose is, "Mobilize the entire community to end child sexual abuse." The vision is, "a community that will not allow children to be sexually abused." Another coalition of similarly committed and similarly attended individuals and agencies seeks to eliminate human trafficking, which sadly too often includes children.
In response to the alarming issue of escalating drug overdoses touching all socioeconomic levels, our community has engaged in a series of community awareness events. Eyes Wide Open held at West Fargo High School in May engaged the community in awareness of the presence of and threat posed by fentanyl. Another follow-up event at the Fargo Theatre last month featured a film produced by the FBI, and focused on opioid addiction and its progression often times from marijuana or prescription medication abuse to overdoses and deaths.
This issue knows no socioeconomic, racial or ethnic borders. A third installment, Arms Wide Open, will focus on what communities can do beyond enforcement to address the issue of drug abuse.
The Stephanie Goetz Mental Wellness Foundation has raised dollars and awareness, as well as providing funding for services in schools in the metro area focused on suicide prevention. United Way is engaged in another fundraising effort to ensure that children in poverty have the supplies they need to begin school without the stigma of not having proper supplies. These are but a few of the initiatives in which I have been engaged as superintendent for which I am grateful. We do live in a caring, compassionate and proactive community.
A common thread through many of these alarming issues is the need for enhanced mental health
services. There are coalitions and efforts to press on this front as well, with local legislators Kathy Hogan and Judy Lee helping study and advocate for education and services addressing behavioral and mental health.
I want to express gratitude to everyone in our community who has stepped forward to lock arms and engage their hearts and minds in defense and support of our children. As we near another school year, I know that educators cannot help each child learn unless each child can rise above or avoid the myriad obstacles and even life-threatening circumstances that exist right here in our community.
To not respond as a community is to say to a child, a family, "Sorry, your end of the boat is sinking." Because children are our future, we are all in the same boat. Our community gets that.