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Advocacy group Tualatin Together raising money to send students to D.C.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TUALATIN TOGETHER - StandUp Tualatin students have an opportunity to connect with their peers, hear from professionals and even meet with lawmakers at a national conference, the executive director of Tualatin Together said, but the nonprofit group needs to raise money for them to attend.There's a national conference on substance abuse next year just outside Washington, D.C., and Cyndy Hillier is planning to be there.

Hillier is the executive director of Tualatin Together, a nonprofit group that advocates drug and alcohol abstinence for Tualatin students. She said she has never been to the annual National Leadership Forum organized by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, better known as CADCA, but she is planning to take six students from Tualatin High School to the conference in early February — provided she can raise the money.

Right now, Tualatin Together is trying to come up with about $5,000, which Hillier believes will cover the remaining trip expenses.

“I can without a doubt say none of the kids that are going would be able to go without this,” Hillier said. “Without this funding, they would not be able to go.”

The conference includes meetings with members of Congress, training sessions, and youth and adult workshops.

“It's important and it's exciting,” said Hillier.

CADCA and its governmental counterpart, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, have lead roles in determining how groups like Tualatin Together use their federal grant dollars to promote tobacco-, drug- and alcohol-free environments in their youth communities, according to Hillier. SAMHSA is also involved with the National Leadership Forum, which dovetails with its annual “Prevention Day.”

Tualatin Together's affiliate at Tualatin High is a student group called “StandUp Tualatin.” Hillier said the group has about a dozen active members who work to encourage awareness and prevention of tobacco, drug and alcohol use among students.

“These kids dream big, and they're so inclusive and so inspiring,” she said.

Hillier is hoping a StandUp group at Hazelbrook Middle School will get off the ground. She would like Tualatin Police Officer Chet Lemon, who works as Hazelbrook's school resource officer, to come along on the trip to the National Leadership Forum in National Harbor, Md., along with a few other adults involved in her group's efforts.

Police Chief Kent Barker said Lemon has approached him about attending, although he hasn't received confirmation that Tualatin Together's federal grant would pay for him to go, so he hasn't approved the training request yet.

“It sounded to me like this upcoming conference would be a great opportunity for our department to work and train with other members of the Tualatin Together Coalition as we all have common goals,” he added in an email.

Barker said he is “a full supporter” of Tualatin Together and noted that the department's school resource officers have been teaching drug and alcohol prevention.

The conference runs from Feb. 1-4.

Hillier has set up a GoFundMe page where people can donate to help send StandUp students to Washington, D.C., for the conference.

Donations can also be mailed to the group at 5505 S.W. Borland Road, Tualatin.