Local school districts honor San Dieguito Alliance for Drug-Free Youth

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In early March, community members helped surprise San Dieguito Alliance with the award announcement: First row, left to right, Nancy Perry Sheridan, Judi Strang, Katie Poponyak, and Terri Ann Skelly. Second row, left to right, Janet Asaro, Kelly McCormick, and Becky Rapp.

The San Dieguito Alliance for Drug-Free Youth has been named the recipient of the San Diego County School Boards Association’s 2020 “Honoring Our Own” Community Partner of the Year Award. School board members from the Del Mar, Encinitas, Cardiff, San Dieguito and Solana Beach school districts joined together earlier this school year to publicly recognize the non-profit’s contribution to their communities.

Services that the Alliance provides include Study Buddies, an after-school program that pairs elementary school students with high school students in positive one-one mentor relationships and Start Smart, a distracted and drunk driving prevention program for all teens and parents at the four San Dieguito district high schools.

“Elementary school districts realize the importance of teaching healthy habits from a young age. San Dieguito Alliance’s multi-faceted programs, activities, and advocacy have made a positive impact for decades on the lives of students and their families,” said Julie Union, Solana Beach School District board president. “A collective nomination was a meaningful way to honor San Dieguito Alliance’s extraordinary partnership.”

SDUHSD Board President Beth Hergesheimer said the high school district’s board is proud to be included in nominating and honoring the San Dieguito Alliance for all they have done to cultivate a positive culture of support and prevention.

“Whether it is the Smart Start program for our student drivers and their parents, opportunities for our high school students to be trained to deliver anti-drug, healthy-living messages or practice mentorship skills as they volunteer as Teen Presenters and Study Buddies… our entire community is the beneficiary,” Hergesheimer said.

The San Dieguito Alliance also coordinates Red Ribbon Week, community information meetings including the Hispanic Network Breakfast and advocates before city councils regarding public health policies that protect youth from the commercialization and normalization of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drug use.

The Alliance’s youth activities include Teen Presenters, in which high school seniors deliver healthy living messages to students in 28 elementary schools and six middle schools; Young Leaders in Healthcare, a program in partnership with Scripps Hospital to provide teens the opportunity to explore careers and issues in the fields of medicine and public health; and Changers, a youth group for Latino and Asian students, whose mission is to improve the neighborhood conditions for their families and to participate in community service projects.

“On behalf of the parents and community members who work together at San Dieguito Alliance to provide programs to support successful health outcomes for young people and advocate for effective public health policies for our region, we thank our partners, San Dieguito Union High School District, Cardiff School District, Del Mar Union School District, Encinitas School District and the Solana Beach School District,” said San Dieguito Alliance Executive Director Judi Strang, whose passion helped grow and sustain the Alliance over the past 30 years.

The San Diego County School Boards Association’s awards event, originally scheduled for April, will now take place on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina.

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