Coalitions in Action — Lake of the Woods Prevention Coalition Turns Students Into Statisticians

“The Lake of the Woods Prevention Coalition started in 2011 after applying for a grant through the state of Minnesota to reduce youth alcohol use,” said coalition coordinator Tammie Doebler. “Lake of the Woods is a large county with a small population, the majority of whom reside in Baudette. Baudette is a popular tourist destination with summer and ice fishing as a large draw.

“A unique situation our coalition faces is that our county and community border Canada,” said Doebler. “The proximity and relationship are close enough that our schools have partnered for participating in sporting events due to the small number of students. Partnering with other communities or counties with different rules and ordinances is nothing new, but where we are set apart is that the legal drinking age in Canada is 18 and Canada has recently legalized marijuana. This situation generates different conversations and dilemmas not faced by all coalitions. One of our greatest strengths coming from a community with a small population is that we realize partnerships, relationships and sharing resources are key.”

“A partnership we are most proud of is one of our newest – students enrolled in statistics class,” said Doebler. “The initial feeling was this would help us to analyze our data after sending it to them, letting them run a few things and get some talking points back to us. So much more has come of it! We use survey data collected at school from our students but realized we may not share the results as in-depth as we should back to the students. Once the students got the data, we realized how interested they were in it, and how much they understood the importance of the data. The 2018-2019 school year was the 2nd year of this partnership, and the outgoing students introduced the survey during class to other students, emphasizing their anonymity in taking the survey and the importance of being truthful and talking it seriously to get the most accurate information. Students work closely with the coalition's evaluator. He calls into their classroom several times throughout the school year to help guide the students in working intimately with the data, recognizing trends, and understanding how the strategies the coalition is working on can positively affect the statistics. Greater understanding of the data empowers students to feel comfortable enough to talk to others. The statistics class then took our information (their research project) and shared it with the coalition, county commissioners and other local groups. Ideas, results and data coming from the students provides a greater community impact then the coalition could achieve on its own. We have been asked to share this throughout the state at networking events including the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics and at the Montana Institutes’ Positive Community Norms Conference. The presentations have sparked questions and excitement from others on how to partner and utilize different student classes.”

“This school year's statistics class is taking on the topic of vaping,” said Doebler. “They are very concerned about students vaping and the health implications that are arising. They circulated a short five question survey to 6th through 12th grade students and will be sharing the results and their suggestions for prevention with the school administration, the Lake of the Woods Coalition, teachers and possibly the other students.”

“Utilizing all our resources is a strategy that could help other coalitions that may have some of the same issues,” said Doebler. “For example, up and down membership numbers or not wanting to burnout our greatest champions. Pushing to think past the easy and obvious answers to find new partners or engage other groups in pieces of what you are doing will leave a great ripple effect.”

“We have been fortunate to attend many CADCA Mid-Year Training Institutes and National Leadership Forums over the years and the knowledge learned and shared on coalition building and prevention strategies has been very beneficial,” said Doebler. “The conferences are a great way to network with other coalitions to share ideas.”

“Making long lasting community change is a long process,” said Doebler. “You never know when a great partnership is just around the corner – keep up the good work!”