Gwinn students write successful grant

GWINN – Students in Gwinn High School will get to learn first-hand next school year what it’s like caring for a drug-affected baby thanks to the efforts of two senior students.

Victoria Dean and Molly Smith were the writers of a successful $400 mini-grant from the Marquette County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, also known as MC2.

“Even though we were given a lot information, it was still nerve-wracking to properly write it,” Smith said. “And you want it to be perfect, because you want the younger classmen to be able to have the opportunity to be able to see the baby and have the baby talked about to them.”

The grant was used to help purchase a “Real Care Drug-Affected” simulator baby, which the coalition was able to see during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Dean and Smith presented to the coalition on the Gwinn High School Youth Advisory Council, of which both students are members.

They brought with them the new, drug-affected simulator baby, which was passed around the room for members of the coalition to see. Some were moved to tears as they held the trembling, crying baby.

“It was definitely powerful,” said Sarah Derwin, MC2 coordinator.

Derwin said the coalition approved the grant because it saw the benefits in offering students a hands-on experience with the simulator baby.

“We know students are very visual and with that type of learning, we feel it could really enhance and drive points home about the importance with drugs and pregnancy and babies, and the prevention message that’s wrapped into it,” Derwin said. “I think our coalition just felt that the impact of this could go far and wide, just on the visuals alone of it, just judging from our meeting (Tuesday), it really impacts people to see and hear and feel what those babies are going through.”

The baby will be used in the Gwinn High School’s health classes, and both students said they hope the lesson of the dangers of using drugs while pregnant will hit home.

“It will change their mind of actually thinking about going out and doing drugs and getting pregnant,” Dean said. “They can have a total different mindset, on, ‘If I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t do drugs.'”

Dean said the baby could also get teens thinking about pregnancy in general, and the difficulties inherent in taking care of a newborn – drug-addicted or not – as a teenager.

The school will use the new baby next year. Students will also have the use of a similar simulator baby, this one alcohol-affected.

Dean and Smith spoke to the coalition not just about the new simulator baby, but about their work in general as members of the Youth Advisory Council, a group comprised of freshmen through senior students that meets regularly to discuss student issues.

Its main focus has been on suicide-prevention, with the council organizing an annual suicide-prevention walk. This year’s will take place May 17.

With so many seniors graduating this year, Smith said she’s hoping the younger members of the advisory council have learned everything they need to to keep the council’s positive action moving forward.

Derwin said the coalition asked Smith and Dean to present at its meeting so they could be honored for the hard work they’ve done as members of the council.

“They’re (grant) writing was top notch, they really put a lot of heart and soul into it,” Derwin said. “Just seeing how much leadership they’ve taken with the Youth Advisory Council, we just thought we’d really like to honor these two at this meeting.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.