Waupaca’s Parks and Recreation Department is collaborating with the Waupaca School District to bring Rise Together to the community on Monday, March 2.
“Somehow it’s connected to everyone. It affects someone you know,” Andrew Whitman said of the issue of substance abuse.
Whitman, the city’s recreation programmer, is among those organizing next month’s program in Waupaca.
The March 2 program will feature Rise Together, an advocacy group made up of recovering addicts, family members, friends, advocates and professionals.
Three, two-hour presentations will take place that day.
The first one will be in the morning, for Waupaca’s sixth through eighth graders.
The second presentation will be in the afternoon, for the district’s high school students.
The final presentation will be open to the public and will be held from 6-8 p.m., at Waupaca High School.
Since forming in September of 2013, members of the Rise Together have spoken to thousands of students throughout the state.
They see themselves as faces and voices in recovery and want to combine presentations. intervention, treatment, advocacy and research and use their resources to make a dent in drug use.
Last November, more than 100 people from throughout Waupaca County met in Manawa to attend a summit about heroin.
Bret Rodenz, Waupaca’s school liaision officer, was among them.
“I don’t think anyone can say they don’t know someone addicted to drugs of some kind,” he said.
After attending the summit, he was among those from throughout the area who saw the need to bring Rise Together to their schools.
In December, the group spoke to students in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District and in January, they went to the New London School District.
Rodenz attended one of the presentations at W-F High School and felt the need to have the same presentation in Waupaca.
Two days afater attending the program, Tim Neuville brought up the issue during a conversation with Rodenz, asking him what the business community could do.
Little did Rodenz know that Whitman also saw the need to address the issue.
“Initially, I thought about doing something here at the youth center,” Whitman said.
When he contacted the W-F School District, he learned there was already an effort under way to bring Rise Together to the Waupaca School District.
Whitman contacted Rodenz, and the planning began.
“The community support has been great,” Whitman said.
The cost to bring Rise Together to Waupaca is being covered by Neuville Automotive, Vic and Chris Anthony, First National Bank, Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club, ThedaCare, Waupaca Parks and Recreation Department, Waupaca Mobil Travel Center, Waupaca Foundry, Chain O’ Lakes Litho and WDUX.
With 75 percent of those who use heroin just once using it again, organizers of Waupaca’s March 2 program not only want the students to hear Rise Together’s message but their parents and the community at large as well.
“The comments I hear from kids is it’s just as easy to get marijuana as it is to get cigarettes,” Rodenz said.
For some, marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin.
With a number of states legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for those age 21 and over, the perception among youth is it is OK to use the drug, he said.
Today’s youth are growing up in this type of culture.
“It’s about the family, the kids,” Rodenz said in encouraging the public to attend the evening presentation.
Church youth groups are encouraging their youth and famiilies to do so.
District Administrator David Poeschl said the school district is pleased to collaborate with Waupaca’s Parks and Recreation Department to bring the program to Waupaca.
“Heroin affects the school, home and community. We all need to learn as much as we can about how heroin endangers our health and well-being. We can then work together to rid our schools and communities of this dangerous drug,” he said.
Poeschl said he appreciates the “support of individuals, service organizations and businesses who have joined together with the city of Waupaca and the School District of Waupaca to bring this dynamic program to our community. I encourage parents and other community members to attend the evening program to learn how they, too, can play an important part in keeping heroin out of our homes, community and schools.”