To the Editor:
As the summer draws to a close and we begin another school year, I wanted to take a moment to thank the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task Force (YTF) for their efforts on behalf of the young people of our Island. This volunteer group has formed a wonderful partnership with local law enforcement officers, educators, and community members to help our community address the troubling issues of youth alcohol and substance abuse.
Much has already been accomplished — the YTF has gathered data on youth alcohol and substance abuse on a regular basis, giving Island decision-makers one of the most comprehensive knowledge bases on this issue anywhere in the Commonwealth. The task force has worked closely with Island police departments to implement compliance checks at every establishment that sells alcohol and has formed a strong positive bond with the Island’s purveyors. From the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools’ point of view, our students have learned much from the YTF’s social norms campaign and its work with Island health teachers. We are about to forge a new plan to improve the K-12 health curriculum thanks to this effort.
Under the thoughtful leadership of Bill Jones and Mike Joyce as well as the start-up efforts of Cindy Doyle, the YTF’s two coordinators — Jamie Vanderhoop and Theresa Manning — work closely with the public schools, local law enforcement agencies, and other community groups. The various outreach efforts —lecture series, Chat n’ Chowders and student presentations — have done much to address this Island-wide issue of teen substance abuse.
While youth substance abuse and underage drinking are still significant issues for our community, we are clearly in a much better place thanks to the efforts of the Youth Task Force members and their partners across the Island. At a recent YTF luncheon, I was so impressed to hear all that is happening and wanted to remind all Islanders of the importance of this effort. If you are a parent, I would urge you to attend a YTF event such as the upcoming Freshman Parent Social on September 23 at the Y. Parents can also sign the safe home pledge, which can be found at www.mvyouthtaskforce.org. If you are an alcohol seller, I would urge you to participate in the “Sticker Shock” or server training. And if you are an Island teen, I would urge you to remember that more than 50 percent of your fellow teens don’t use alcohol or drugs.
James H. Weiss, EdD
Superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools