Jessica Mathews in her office on Plattsburgh State’s campus.
PLATTSBURGH — It’s about making better lifestyle choices, says Jessica Mathews.
It’s about a community empowered by youth, and not viewing them as a deterrent.
She wants youth to feel they have a place in the community.
But most importantly, the coordinator for the Plattsburgh Campus and Community Partnership wants youth to make healthy choices.
“We are working to provide education to the youth of the city, as well as parents and community members.”
As coordinator for the Plattsburgh Campus and Community Partnership, Mathews works with community organizations to help reduce drug use and drinking among young people.
The federally funded program in its 9th year started with $125,000 and a vision of drug prevention for youth 18 and under.
“Quality of life are a lot of the issues we deal with,” Mathews said.
The first five-year grant that came through the Office of National Drug Control Policy totaled $625,000 with the City of Plattsburgh the target.
Mathews works with more than 30 different organizations and individuals, including law enforcement, schools, media, downtown businesses and the District Attorney’s Office.
“We have six or seven sub-committees,” Mathews said.
Representatives include parents, youth, businesses, media, schools, Clinton County Youth Bureau, law enforcement, religious, civic and fraternal organizations, health-care agencies, and groups that deal with substance abuse.
“It is not a one-person show,” Mathews said. “We all work together toward a common goal.”
The Plattsburgh Campus and Community Partnership’s mission is to empower the community to make healthy lifestyle choices through collaborative planning. This is done by fostering respectful, responsible and productive citizens and by preventing alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and related health and behavior problems.
“One of the things we focus on is alcohol education, because underage drinking is an issue no matter where you go in the United States,” Mathews said. “And then of course there definitely is the issue of synthetic and prescription drugs.”
One effort has middle school students working on media advocacy and analyzing advertisements that promote alcohol.
Another group brings parents and their children together for education and discussions.
Some people are mailing information to be displayed in doctor and health-care offices.
Yet another partnership promotes improved relationships between students and the community around them.
Mathews said one effort works on overcoming stigma, so that, for example, students realize not all their peers are drinking and there are other activities available on a Friday night.
Mathews, who studied education in college and worked for Upward Bound, believes the efforts are working.
“I think we are making a change,” she said. “This is not just a half-hearted effort.”