On February 15, 2016 at Mondovi and Alma Area Schools, eighth graders from all four school districts in Buffalo County participated in the fifth annual Eighth Grade Day. The program was hosted by the Buffalo County Partnership Council (BCPC), a group of teachers, students, county agencies and community organizations that work to strengthen positive youth and family development in Buffalo County.
The event focused on preparing Buffalo County eighth graders from Mondovi, Cochrane-Fountain City, Gilmanton and Alma for high school and addressing some of the challenges they may already be facing, such as bullying, depression, peer relationships and alcohol and drug use.
A central part of the learning experiences was a suicide prevention training called QPR. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer. The purpose of the training was to help students better understand the suicide warning sides and how to ask the question, persuade peers to seek help and refer a friend to an adult or Hopeline for additional resources. The QPR trainers included Rhonda Brown, Kelli Engen and Laura Baalrud from 3D Community Health through a partnership with Buffalo County Public Health. Students worked in small groups, address myths surrounding suicide and viewed a powerful video created by a middle school student.
In addition, Judi Zabel from 7 C’s Coalition, a consortium of public health counties in western Wisconsin, spoke students about tobacco products. Zabel wanted eighth graders to recognize newer tobacco products that are targeted at young people. These products are packaged in bright colors that appeal to youth, come in kid-friendly flavors like cotton candy and are located at eye level in local convenience stores for a very low cost. Zabel’s presentation was highly interactive and provided new information to middle school students that they could utilize immediately.
Eighth grade students also met with Buffalo County Partnership Council high school students in small groups to practice teambuilding across school districts. In Mondovi, Miranda Lund, Abby George, Jacob West, Kylee Lund, Elizabeth Lay, Haleigh Klopp are BCPC high school student members who facilitated the learning opportunities for eighth graders. Macie Luff, Paige Alleman, Brilyn Brecka and Wyatt Johnson led the group initiatives at the Alma site.