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Tualatin's anti-drug advocates return from East Coast conference invigorated

StandUp Tualatin, Tualatin Together attend CADCA forum in National Harbor, Md.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TUALATIN TOGETHER - Students from StandUp Tualatin pose with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, fourth from left, and Tualatin Together Executive Director Cyndy Hillier, right.This story has been updated from its original version.

Students from StandUp Tualatin and its nonprofit sponsor Tualatin Together traveled to Washington, D.C., early this month for a national conference on drug abuse and prevention.

The groups, which advocate against drug, alcohol and tobacco use by Tualatin's youth, attended the National Leadership Forum put on by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, or CADCA, in National Harbor, Md., just outside the nation's capital. Students also had the opportunity to meet with members of Congress, including Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici from Oregon's congressional delegation.

“I thought it went really well,” said Jake Calder, a senior at Tualatin High School who is president of StandUp Tualatin. “It was definitely a really great experience for us to get to know some different members of the federal government and really be able to get their support and tell them what we're doing.”

Cyndy Hillier, Tualatin Together's executive director, organized a fundraising effort for the trip, which she said ended up costing about $15,000 for six students and four adults. But the group did not meet its fundraising target, and Tualatin Together's board of directors ended up voting to use carryover funds to make up the difference, she said.

“The parents of the four students who can attend again next year are already working on fundraising efforts now to be sure we can bring all the students possible!” Hillier wrote in an email.

Hillier and Ali Hoyle from Tualatin Together went on the trip, along with Tualatin Police Officer Chet Lemon, who works as a school resource officer, and Holly Poulivaati, a Tualatin High counselor.

Sophomore Zoe Olivera said the conference gave her group the opportunity to meet students from other communities and share ideas about drug prevention.

“Getting other ideas from the other coalitions there … and being able to meet all the people and spread our ideas, it was really fun,” she said.

Calder said the students got some advice and training on how to implement a campaign to curb marijuana use among Tualatin High students at lunchtime.

“From there, we can easily identify exactly what we need to do to solve these little problems and solve the overriding problem,” he said.

Students attended the forum from Feb. 1 to Feb. 4, according to Hillier. They took one of those days to go on a tour of Washington, D.C., while another day was filled with training, Calder said.

Hillier showed and narrated a video from the trip at a Tualatin Together meeting Tuesday.

"They're anxious to take some of the new tools that they learned and, at their next StandUp meeting, share some of the thoughts that they have of issues that they see in their community and go down the little logic steps and make some changes, or make plans as to how they can impact (them)," Hillier said of the students.

Hoyle said she felt students were "empowered" by the opportunity to speak with Oregon's members of Congress while on the trip.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from a Tualatin Together meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TUALATIN TOGETHER - Tualatin High School students work on an exercise during the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America's National Leadership Forum in National Harbor, Md., earlier this month.