Howar Junior High, in Appanoose County, will be working with Sieda Community Action’s Behavioral Health and Treatment Chuck Russell to start a new Botvin Life Skills Training Program that will serve 6th, 7th and in the coming years 8th graders.

Due to high rates for alcohol abuse Appanoose County was chosen in 2015 to participate in the Iowa Partnership for Success (IPFS) Grant project. In 6th grade 30.8% of the students, in the “2014 Iowa Youth Survey Appanoose County Results 04,”[1] didn’t know of the risk or didn’t think there was a risk in drinking 3 or more alcoholic drinks every day. The same youth survey also exposed that 22.3% of 6th graders, 40.2% of 8th graders, and 77% of 11th graders said it was “easy” or “very easy” to get access to alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other illegal drugs substances.

Chuck Russell, Sieda’s Appanoose County IPFS Coordinator has already started working with the Appanoose County Collaboration Council (ACCC) to develop a plan for prevention and implementing effective programs, policies and practices to reduce substance abuse and its related problems. The ACCC consist of invested community members such as youth, parents, school officials, veterans, juvenile court officers, law enforcement, public and home health, county and city officials, behavior health, media, and concerned citizens.

With funds from IPFS, the Botvin Life Skills Training classes will expand on Tino Terrones, the Lakeview student advisors, program.[2]  The 30 training classes will stretch over 3 years from 6th to 8th grade. The focus will be on developing and strengthening personal self-management, social skills, and drug resistance skills that build effective defenses against pressures to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

From the Appanoose youth survey the pressure to use any substance, alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other illegal drugs, starts early. In 6th grade 6.7% said they have felt pressured to use a substance. Female 6th grade students feel the pressure more than then males with 10%. The pressure only increases the older the student gets with 8th graders 15.6% pressured and 41.6% in 11th grade. Female student’s percentages are always higher than the male percentages with it being over 4 times greater in 8th grade.[1]

The ACCC’s goal in conjunction with Sieda’s Behavioral Health and Treatment is to target first on the Centerville school district who has 63% of the targeted students in hopes of reaching at least 281 students over 3 years. If the program is successful and the funds are available they hope to expand to the other smaller districts. The grant will last through September of 2019 but Russell said they are hoping that it could be extended. “We will do it as long as we can,” said Russell. “That’s what the money is for.”[2]

Howar Junior High principal Karen Swanson said they are very grateful for Sieda’s support since it provides the funding for training and materials for the school and they are very hopeful that they will be able to expand the program to the eighth-grade students next year as well.[2]

The program will work with the Howar Junior High student advisors Jason Reed and Marcia Bowen in conjunction with P.E./Health teacher Nic Belloma to implement the Life Skills program. The lessons will cover not just drinking, smoking and illegal drug use but will extend into self-management skills such as decision making, online interacting, conflict management, anxiety, bullying and more. 7.4% of 6th graders admitted to seriously thinking about killing themselves which drastically increased to 18.9% with 8th graders, in the 2014 Appanoose survey.[1]

Belloma said that it is good to get the students to open up about the topics that are being discussed, to get them thinking about these issues and hearing other people’s opinions on them.[2] The classes have already begun and the response from the students has been good.

Photo by Krystal Fowler/Daily Iowegian Pictured left to right are Howar Junior High P.E. and Health teacher Nic Belloma, Appanoose County Iowa Partnership for Success Coordinator Chuck Russell, Howar Junior High principal Karen Swanson, Appanoose County Iowa Partnership for Success Evaluator Connie McFall, and Howar Junior High student advisor Jason Reed. Not pictured is Howar Junior High student advisor Marcia Bowen.

[1] The University of Iowa “2014 Iowa Youth Survey, Appanoose County Results 04” Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Youth Survey,

[2] Krystal Fowler “Howar Junior High implements Life Skills program,” Daily Iowegian,