SULTAN — Young people in Sultan want more from life than drug addiction.
They deserve more.
That’s the new message from a years-long effort to battle substance abuse in town. The Sky Valley Community Coalition, which includes the schools, city officials, police, churches and the Volunteers of America, started getting going as far back as 2011.
At the time, it’d barely been two years since a Sultan teenager was stabbed to death in a gang-related attack a few feet from City Hall.
“The community was still really stirred up by that,” City Councilwoman Sarah Davenport-Smith said. “People were looking to the leadership to do something. What can we do to help this problem and make sure that our kids have constructive things to do, and they’re not going to choose to go down the wrong path?”
The coalition marked a major milestone with an assembly at Sultan High School on Friday.
The assembly featured images of high school students each holding a sign declaring what they want from life. They listed goals including graduating high school and visiting Europe.
The students call their part of the campaign “Want More,” and the focus is on telling students what to do with their lives, versus what not to do, Principal Tami Nesting said. “If you’re pursuing what you want, you won’t be messing around with the other things,” she said.
The assembly also combined themes of anti-bullying, inclusiveness and diversity. Kids started filling out the “Want More” cards in the fall, Assistant Principal Scott Sifferman said. Some answers were silly, but many were serious.
“In their own different ways, they shared what they wanted more of,” he said. “It’s a way of unveiling their dreams. Living a drug-free life allows you to at least not have that barrier shut doors and close opportunities.”
Sultan police officers filled out the Want More cards as well, said Police Chief Monte Beaton, who attends the community coalition meetings. The students are supplying the energy for the campaign, and the police are on board.
“I think it’s a good program, and it’s working toward giving kids an opportunity” to do something meaningful with their lives, Beaton said.
The coalition members aim to bring community groups, treatment providers and parenting resources together on common goals, Davenport-Smith said. They’ve received some grant money, too.
The Volunteers of America is part of the partnership and is providing support, said Adele Hurst, director of the Sky Valley Family and Community Resource Center on First Street.
Preventing drug and alcohol abuse is one of the most important ways to make sure young people become happy, productive and self-sustaining adults, she said.
The coalition is now exploring ideas such as adding early-education activities and setting up internships and apprenticeships for young people at local businesses, Davenport-Smith said.
“This isn’t just for the youth,” she said. “We want the whole community to be on board with Want More.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find the Sky Valley Community Coalition on Facebook.