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Students capture hope, concern on camera

We Decide students Zach Jewison, Taylor Graham, Justine Rittgers and Calvin Bateman stand in the middle of Main street to show something positive in the community for a photo voice project. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

By Anna Erickson

Students are capturing how they see the Park Rapids area – the good and the bad – through photo and video.

Four students who are part of the We Decide group at Park Rapids Area High School headed to Main street Friday morning before school to snap some photos of them dancing and having a good time.

We Decide is a student organization that encourages making good choices regarding alcohol use. The group has started a dialogue among peers about alcohol use perception.

“We’re taking pictures at Red Bridge, some students are going up to the Headwaters,” said We Decide member Justine Rittgers.

The photo voice project involves taking pictures at locations that give them hope as well as concern.

“The emphasis is on hope and concern,” said We Decide member Calvin Bateman.

Main street, Red Bridge and the Headwaters are in the hope category. They will also be showing their concern by taking photos at locations known for alcohol use or where kids gather to smoke.

We Decide students want to create a display for the Governor’s Fishing Opener at the community picnic.

The We Decide initiative is youth led and adult guided.

Advisers Brenda Johnson and Shelli Walsh said the students have been coming up with all the ideas and are very excited about the project. They simply help them where they can.

Students created t-shirts that said, “Dude, I was so sober last night,” to spur conversation among their peers.

We Decide has also been working on a poster series at the high school that uses positive messages about alcohol use perception.

An example of a message is, “When hanging out with friends, most Park Rapids students would rather not drink alcohol.”

The statement is based on data collected in the Minnesota Positive Community Norms survey. Students involved in We Decide encourage other students to ask them about their initiative. They are eager to talk about it.

The goal is to start a conversation to close the gap between actual norms and misperceptions of norms.

We Decide is a branch of the Hubbard in Prevention (HIP) coalition, an organization geared toward alcohol prevention among youth.

The We Decide student organization meets monthly before school. A leadership group also meets monthly.

Students are also working on having a presence at Prom, Post Prom and Senior Slam.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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