This article is part of a project of the local Community Health Improvement Council (CHIC). CHICs were created statewide in conjunction with the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) with the goal of getting local citizens and county governments more involved in the manner in which health might be improved in each of their communities. The local CHIC is conducting an on-going awareness campaign addressing all the areas that can potentially affect a person’s health. May has been dedicated to prevention education for children.
Making healthy decisions starts with knowing that most young people do not use tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, and do not engage in risky behaviors. The New Mexico 2011 Youth Risk & Resiliency Survey (YRRS) of San Juan County high school students shows that 80.5% are not smokers, 91.6% are not spit tobacco users, 72% are not current alcohol users, and 74.2% are not current marijuana users (click to view 2011 NM YRRS of SJC). Children can learn the consequences of choosing or not choosing to become involved in these and other risky behaviors from real life positive role models. Too often society places professional athletes, Hollywood actors, and trendy rock singers on a pedestal and their poor judgment is glamorized in magazines, tabloid news, and on reality television. Whereas the UmattR program provides real life positive role models for children and emphasizes healthy life choices.
UmattR (You Matter) is a prevention education program aimed at teaching elementary school-age children about making good choices. Each year, 12 senior high school teens are selected to represent the program. The process to become a UmattR Teen is competitive. Selected candidates must exhibit a history of making good life choices, both academically and socially and cannot have ever participated in substance use or have a criminal history. The teens visit local elementary schools and community events throughout the academic year to share their positive message through role playing scenarios. They encourage children to become involved in community activities and promote making good decisions so that other young people may also become future role models. Each senior is featured on their own trading card displaying their favorite activities, which they autograph for younger students following their presentations. The back of each card lists the UmattR Teen’s activities, school, grade point average, and future plans along with a personal message of how he or she remains drug free. The cards serve as a reminder to each child that many high school students are drug free and can aspire to be role models and future leaders. Each teen receives a $1000 scholarship for his or her commitment to the community through the UmattR program.
UmattR began in 2008 and is hosted by San Juan Safe Communities Initiative as one of its prevention strategies. The program is sponsored by BHP Billiton, Merrion Oil & Gas, San Juan Center for Independence, PNM San Juan Generation, San Juan County Partnership, San Juan Regional Medical Center, State Farm Insurance Agents Wendy Most and Thomas Payne, Sherrie's Studio, and San Juan County Kids (published by Monarch Marketing). You can learn more about UmattR by visiting UmattR.com.
You will find some helpful links below:
Prevention Education for Children
UmattR - "You Matter"
Written by Greg Allen
San Juan Safe Communities Initiative
2014 May 06
KSJE 90.9 FM
The Scott Michlin Morning Program
Link to UmattR
San Juan County Kids
to learn about
the Kids Newspaper