SOUTHINGTON - Town Councilor and DePaolo Middle School Assistant Principal Chris Palmieri took the reins as president of the STEPS Coalition last week and has plans for ways to further assist in efforts to prevent substance abuse by local youths.
The torch was passed to Palmieri Monday during the organization’s first board meeting of the year, but he has been involved in the group for more than 10 years. Since its inception, Palmieri said STEPS, Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success, has made great strides in identifying “development assets.”
“The more of these assets a child possesses, the higher a chance that they will be successful and stay away from substance abuse,” said Palmieri. “Some examples of development assets include reading for pleasure, service to others, community involvement and positive adult resources.”
Palmieri said that an “Asset Building Classroom” has been set up throughout the local school district. Each month the schools focus on building a different development asset.
“Achievement motivation is the asset of the month - which means setting goals and motivating yourself to achieve them,” he said. “The students at DePaolo Middle School are also working on helping other students by providing them with motivational quotes.”
Palmieri said now that he is in charge, he will continue with asset development but will also focus more on developing the “prevention coalition” aspect of STEPS.
“I want to focus more on the prevention of underage drinking, tobacco and marijuana use and prescription drug abuse,” he said. “In spring, STEPS has a transition day where fifth-graders preparing to go into sixth grade to go Camp Sloper and our eighth-graders preparing to go to Southington High School are brought into the school.
“There, we had an FBI agent and an assistant U.S. attorney speaking to students. They have already heard a lot from local police through our DARE program, but we want them to be able to hear first hand through federal enforcement officials.”
Palmieri said the decisions of the STEPS Coalition are all “data driven.”
“Every other year we survey kids in different grades and ask all types of questions about risky behaviors,” he said. “Then we compare the results to their report cards and decide what changes we make.”
Palmieri said the STEPS coalition has strong support from the community.
“We have town leaders, members of law enforcement and churches, members of civic groups, parents and students and members of the business sector,” he said. “All of them bring something to strengthen our board.”
Palmieri said his message to those parents with children facing substance abuse issues is “you’re not alone.”
“It takes a village to raise a child,” he said. “We all need to work together to make prevention a priority.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.