An Introvert Attends the Science March by Marita Wilson

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I’m a scientist by trade. Unsurprisingly, I’m also an introvert. I love sitting at home with my cat, drinking tea and listening to the birds outside. But in moving to Chestertown, I’ve placed myself in the proximity of Washington, DC, which means my home is now a perfect stop-over for friends on their way to political marches. This is very good for me, because I love seeing my friends—but also because it gets me off my behind. When your friend emails you to discuss her plans for staying at your house to go to a march, it’s not really an option to stay back!

This past weekend, many introverts like me left their quiet offices and humming labs to march on our nation’s capital. And as a former researcher and high school biology teacher, I was glad to be counted among them.

The winding path that got me to the Science March begins back in January, when my friend Laura came down from upstate New York and bravely led me into the crackling, crowded Women’s March. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It turned out that I was getting myself into one of the most positive, uplifting political experiences I’ve ever had.

But even that positive experience didn’t stop me from worrying. Would the trip, the hassle, be worth it? Would I be prepared? But mainly, why was I even going?

I knew I felt dissatisfied with our current government’s treatment of science, both in its proposed policies and its dismissive, distrustful language. But it took me days to distill those feelings into thoughts that could be verbally expressed, into ideas that were strong enough to march behind.

Mainly, I wanted two things: I wanted people to trust science again, not as the ultimate authority but as a tool for finding the truth. And I wanted people to come together and recognize each other’s value in our increasingly divided society.

The Friday before the march, my friend Laura, her husband, and one of her coworkers swung through Chestertown to pick me up, and we drove into DC. As usual, I had a blast taking the newbies across the Bay Bridge. My aunt and uncle have an apartment within walking distance of the Mall, and they’d agreed to let us crash with them the night before the march. In their basement at midnight, we wrote our signs. Protest signs, I realized, are the original tweets: use as few letters as possible to say as much as you can.

We are all CONNECTED: To each other, BIOLOGICALLY. To the earth, CHEMICALLY. To the universe, ATOMICALLY. – Neil deGrasse Tyson

SCIENTISTS SEEK TRUTH, even when we don’t like the answer

DON’T DRAIN SWAMS: RESTORE WETLANDS

VOTE 2018! Don’t forget!

THE OCEANS ARE RISING AND SO ARE WE

The morning of the march was cloudy, and the rain started as soon as we headed towards the Mall. I had refused my Aunt’s offer for an umbrella multiple times that morning, fearing that with my short stature, I was bound to take out someone’s eye in the crowd. But as we got off the subway along with hundreds of other sing-wielding marchers, I began to wonder if she had been the wiser of us. My raincoat was doing its job, but it couldn’t protect my sign, which was starting to bleed; or my glasses, which quickly became spattered; or my phone, which I had been intending to take pictures with. The phone stayed safely in my leather purse. Though my raincoat didn’t protect that, either.

Soon we were standing by the Washington Monument, listening as Bill Nye gave a two-minute speech of inspiration. My toes were damp and my fingers soon turned into frozen, sign-pinching claws. But I still felt encouraged as I looked over the umbrella-mosaicked crowd. Marches, I’ve learned, are not only about making a statement. They are about coming together. When we sit at home in front of our screens and read the news, there is little to feel but loneliness and despair. Even when we seek out our friends, politeness often dictates we steer away from political discourse. But at a march, you hold your views high, and people smile, take pictures, and gather closely around. (Though not too closely, at a march for introverts!) Even in the driving rain, the energy warmed us.

Coming together around a cause does not mean agreeing on everything. The signs at the Science March, like the signs at the Women’s March, reflected a variety of concerns. As I watched the crowds, the one thing that saddened me was knowing that the march had been slow to open its arms to those championing the cause of minority and female scientists. I was glad to see, despite the mixed messages the march organizers had sent, that there were still people on the ground supporting diversity in our field. While we were all marching under a theme, there are many variations on that theme. At a march like this, there is plenty of room for all of us.

As we took a break for lunch, my hands clutched around a warm mocha, my aunt and uncle and I discussed sexual assault and how the perpetrators should be held accountable. This wasn’t part of the march’s platform at all, but marches tend to be catalysts for all kinds of conversations people might not otherwise have. Because when else do introverts talk about controversial things, in person, face to face, without fear that the topic is inappropriate?

Back out into the cold and rain we went. We caught up with the front of the march at Constitution and 10th street and folded our way into the crowd. Chants would start: “Science is real, despite what you feel!” “Fund us all, not the wall!” But they always stopped after three or four repetitions, as introverts don’t love yelling. Nearby, a lorax marched, speaking for the trees. There were little children, cozy and dry in their strollers, and dogs, too, including one in a trash bag coat with a hole for its tail. As we turned down 3rd street and passed in front of the capitol, someone knelt down and proposed to his girlfriend. The march organizer got on the microphone and shouted, “Somebody just got engaged!” We all cheered.

Later, on Facebook, I saw that several of my friends from my teaching program and my lab had also come to DC, but of course I’d missed them in the crowd. I’d also missed a spontaneous dance party and a polar bear costume, apparently. But I had seen propeller bird garden statues, and the Trump Hotel across the street from the EPA, and lots of great science puns. I had gotten my feet wet, literally. And I left feeling hopeful about our country’s future for the first time since… well, the last time I’d marched.

Maybe introverts can enjoy being activists after all.

Marita Wilson is a former high school biology teacher, lab researcher, and an aspiring fiction writer. She lives in Kingstown.

Recovery: One Place on Earth Knows How to Stop Teen Substance Abuse

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It’s a little before three on a sunny Friday afternoon and Laugardalur Park, near central Reykjavik, looks practically deserted. There’s an occasional adult with a pushchair, but the park’s surrounded by apartment blocks and houses, and school’s out – so where are all the kids?

Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”

We approach a large building. “And here we have the indoor skating,” says Gudberg.

A couple of minutes ago, we passed two halls dedicated to badminton and ping pong. Here in the park, there’s also an athletics track, a geothermally heated swimming pool and – at last – some visible kids, excitedly playing football on an artificial pitch.

Young people aren’t hanging out in the park right now, Gudberg explains, because they’re in after-school classes in these facilities, or in clubs for music, dance or art. Or they might be on outings with their parents.

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

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The country has created new opportunities for kids of all ages to get involved with the community

If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical wellbeing of millions of kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if.

“I was in the eye of the storm of the drug revolution,” Milkman explains over tea in his apartment in Reykjavik. In the early 1970s, when he was doing an internship at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, “LSD was already in, and a lot of people were smoking marijuana. And there was a lot of interest in why people took certain drugs.”

Milkman’s doctoral dissertation concluded that people would choose either heroin or amphetamines depending on how they liked to deal with stress. Heroin users wanted to numb themselves; amphetamine users wanted to actively confront it. After this work was published, he was among a group of researchers drafted by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to answer questions such as: why do people start using drugs? Why do they continue? When do they reach a threshold to abuse? When do they stop? And when do they relapse?

“Any college kid could say: why do they start? Well, there’s availability, they’re risk-takers, alienation, maybe some depression,” he says. “But why do they continue? So I got to the question about the threshold for abuse and the lights went on – that’s when I had my version of the “aha” experience: they could be on the threshold for abuse before they even took the drug, because it was their style of coping that they were abusing.”

At Metropolitan State College of Denver, Milkman was instrumental in developing the idea that people were getting addicted to changes in brain chemistry. Kids who were “active confronters” were after a rush – they’d get it by stealing hubcaps and radios and later cars, or through stimulant drugs. Alcohol also alters brain chemistry, of course. It’s a sedative but it sedates the brain’s control first, which can remove inhibitions and, in limited doses, reduce anxiety.

“People can get addicted to drink, cars, money, sex, calories, cocaine – whatever,” says Milkman. “The idea of behavioural addiction became our trademark.”

This idea spawned another: “Why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs: around people getting high on their own brain chemistry – because it seems obvious to me that people want to change their consciousness – without the deleterious effects of drugs?”

By 1992, his team in Denver had won a $1.2m government grant to form Project Self-Discovery, which offered teenagers natural-high alternatives to drugs and crime. They got referrals from teachers, school nurses and counsellors, taking in kids from the age of 14 who didn’t see themselves as needing treatment but who had problems with drugs or petty crime.

“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.

At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month programme. Some stayed five years.

It’s less common to see children out on the streets in Iceland, as many are in after-school programs and participating in recreational activities

In 1991, Milkman was invited to Iceland to talk about this work, his findings and ideas. He became a consultant to the first residential drug treatment centre for adolescents in Iceland, in a town called Tindar. “It was designed around the idea of giving kids better things to do,” he explains. It was here that he met Gudberg, who was then a psychology undergraduate and a volunteer at Tindar. They have been close friends ever since.

Milkman started coming regularly to Iceland and giving talks. These talks, and Tindar, attracted the attention of a young researcher at the University of Iceland, called Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir. She wondered: what if you could use healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol as part of a programme not to treat kids with problems, but to stop kids drinking or taking drugs in the first place?

Have you ever tried alcohol? If so, when did you last have a drink? Have you ever been drunk? Have you tried cigarettes? If so, how often do you smoke? How much time to you spend with your parents? Do you have a close relationship with your parents? What kind of activities do you take part in?

In 1992, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds in every school in Iceland filled in a questionnaire with these kinds of questions. This process was then repeated in 1995 and 1997.

The results of these surveys were alarming. Nationally, almost 25 per cent were smoking every day, over 40 per cent had got drunk in the past month. But when the team drilled right down into the data, they could identify precisely which schools had the worst problems – and which had the least. Their analysis revealed clear differences between the lives of kids who took up drinking, smoking and other drugs, and those who didn’t. A few factors emerged as strongly protective: participation in organised activities – especially sport – three or four times a week, total time spent with parents during the week, feeling cared about at school, and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

“At that time, there had been all kinds of substance prevention efforts and programmes,” says Inga Dóra, who was a research assistant on the surveys. “Mostly they were built on education.” Kids were being warned about the dangers of drink and drugs, but, as Milkman had observed in the US, these programmes were not working. “We wanted to come up with a different approach.”

The mayor of Reykjavik, too, was interested in trying something new, and many parents felt the same, adds Jón Sigfússon, Inga Dóra’s colleague and brother. Jón had young daughters at the time and joined her new Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis when it was set up in 1999. “The situation was bad,” he says. “It was obvious something had to be done.”

Using the survey data and insights from research including Milkman’s, a new national plan was gradually introduced. It was called Youth in Iceland.

Laws were changed. It became illegal to buy tobacco under the age of 18 and alcohol under the age of 20, and tobacco and alcohol advertising was banned. Links between parents and school were strengthened through parental organisations which by law had to be established in every school, along with school councils with parent representatives. Parents were encouraged to attend talks on the importance of spending a quantity of time with their children rather than occasional “quality time”, on talking to their kids about their lives, on knowing who their kids were friends with, and on keeping their children home in the evenings.

A law was also passed prohibiting children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10pm in winter and midnight in summer. It’s still in effect today.

Home and School, the national umbrella body for parental organisations, introduced agreements for parents to sign. The content varies depending on the age group, and individual organisations can decide what they want to include. For kids aged 13 and up, parents can pledge to follow all the recommendations, and also, for example, not to allow their kids to have unsupervised parties, not to buy alcohol for minors, and to keep an eye on the wellbeing of other children.

These agreements educate parents but also help to strengthen their authority in the home, argues Hrefna Sigurjónsdóttir, director of Home and School. “Then it becomes harder to use the oldest excuse in the book: ‘But everybody else can!’”

State funding was increased for organised sport, music, art, dance and other clubs, to give kids alternative ways to feel part of a group, and to feel good, rather than through using alcohol and drugs, and kids from low-income families received help to take part. In Reykjavik, for instance, where more than a third of the country’s population lives, a Leisure Card gives families 35,000 krona (£250) per year per child to pay for recreational activities.

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Children between the ages of 13 and 16 are prohibited from being outside after 10pm

Crucially, the surveys have continued. Each year, almost every child in Iceland completes one. This means up-to-date, reliable data is always available.

Between 1997 and 2012, the percentage of kids aged 15 and 16 who reported often or almost always spending time with their parents on weekdays doubled – from 23 per cent to 46 per cent – and the percentage who participated in organised sports at least four times a week increased from 24 per cent to 42 per cent. Meanwhile, cigarette smoking, drinking and cannabis use in this age group plummeted.

“Although this cannot be shown in the form of a causal relationship – which is a good example of why primary prevention methods are sometimes hard to sell to scientists – the trend is very clear,” notes Álfgeir Kristjánsson, who worked on the data and is now at the West Virginia University School of Public Health in the US. “Protective factors have gone up, risk factors down, and substance use has gone down – and more consistently in Iceland than in any other European country.”

Jón Sigfússon apologies for being just a couple of minutes late. “I was on a crisis call!” He prefers not to say precisely to where, but it was to one of the cities elsewhere in the world that has now adopted, in part, the Youth in Iceland ideas.

Youth in Europe, which Jón heads, began in 2006 after the already-remarkable Icelandic data was presented at a European Cities Against Drugs meeting and, he recalls, “People asked: what are you doing?”

Participation in Youth in Europe is at a municipal level rather than being led by national governments. In the first year, there were eight municipalities. To date, 35 have taken part, across 17 countries, varying from some areas where just a few schools take part to Tarragona in Spain, where 4,200 15-year-olds are involved. The method is always the same: Jón and his team talk to local officials and devise a questionnaire with the same core questions as those used in Iceland plus any locally tailored extras. For example, online gambling has recently emerged as a big problem in a few areas, and local officials want to know if it’s linked to other risky behaviour.

Just two months after the questionnaires are returned to Iceland, the team sends back an initial report with the results, plus information on how they compare with other participating regions. “We always say that, like vegetables, information has to be fresh,” says Jón. “If you bring these findings a year later, people would say, Oh, this was a long time ago and maybe things have changed…” As well as fresh, it has to be local so that schools, parents and officials can see exactly what problems exist in which areas.

The team has analysed 99,000 questionnaires from places as far afield as the Faroe Islands, Malta and Romania – as well as South Korea and, very recently, Nairobi and Guinea-Bissau. Broadly, the results show that when it comes to teen substance use, the same protective and risk factors identified in Iceland apply everywhere. There are some differences: in one location (in a country “on the Baltic Sea”), participation in organised sport actually emerged as a risk factor. Further investigation revealed that this was because young ex-military men who were keen on muscle-building drugs, drinking and smoking were running the clubs. Here, then, was a well-defined, immediate, local problem that could be addressed.

While Jón and his team offer advice and information on what has been found to work in Iceland, it’s up to individual communities to decide what to do in the light of their results. Occasionally, they do nothing. One predominantly Muslim country, which he prefers not to identify, rejected the data because it revealed an unpalatable level of alcohol consumption. In other cities – such as the origin of Jón’s “crisis call” – there is an openness to the data and there is money, but he has observed that it can be much more difficult to secure and maintain funding for health prevention strategies than for treatments.

No other country has made changes on the scale seen in Iceland. When asked if anyone has copied the laws to keep children indoors in the evening, Jón smiles. “Even Sweden laughs and calls it the child curfew!”

Across Europe, rates of teen alcohol and drug use have generally improved over the past 20 years, though nowhere as dramatically as in Iceland, and the reasons for improvements are not necessarily linked to strategies that foster teen wellbeing. In the UK, for example, the fact that teens are now spending more time at home interacting online rather than in person could be one of the major reasons for the drop in alcohol consumption.

But Kaunas, in Lithuania, is one example of what can happen through active intervention. Since 2006, the city has administered the questionnaires five times, and schools, parents, healthcare organisations, churches, the police and social services have come together to try to improve kids’ wellbeing and curb substance use. For instance, parents get eight or nine free parenting sessions each year, and a new programme provides extra funding for public institutions and NGOs working in mental health promotion and stress management. In 2015, the city started offering free sports activities on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and there are plans to introduce a free ride service for low-income families, to help kids who don’t live close to the facilities to attend.

Between 2006 and 2014, the number of 15- and 16-year-olds in Kaunas who reported getting drunk in the past 30 days fell by about a quarter, and daily smoking fell by more than 30 per cent.

At the moment, participation in Youth in Europe is a haphazard affair, and the team in Iceland is small. Jón would like to see a centralised body with its own dedicated funding to focus on the expansion of Youth in Europe. “Even though we have been doing this for ten years, it is not our full, main job. We would like somebody to copy this and maintain it all over Europe,” he says. “And why only Europe?”

After our walk through Laugardalur Park, Gudberg Jónsson invites us back to his home. Outside, in the garden, his two elder sons, Jón Konrád, who’s 21, and Birgir Ísar, who’s 15, talk to me about drinking and smoking. Jón does drink alcohol, but Birgir says he doesn’t know anyone at his school who smokes or drinks. We also talk about football training: Birgir trains five or six times a week; Jón, who is in his first year of a business degree at the University of Iceland, trains five times a week. They both started regular after-school training when they were six years old.

“We have all these instruments at home,” their father told me earlier. “We tried to get them into music. We used to have a horse. My wife is really into horse riding. But it didn’t happen. In the end, soccer was their selection.”

Did it ever feel like too much? Was there pressure to train when they’d rather have been doing something else? “No, we just had fun playing football,” says Birgir. Jón adds, “We tried it and got used to it, and so we kept on doing it.”

It’s not all they do. While Gudberg and his wife Thórunn don’t consciously plan for a certain number of hours each week with their three sons, they do try to take them regularly to the movies, the theatre, restaurants, hiking, fishing and, when Iceland’s sheep are brought down from the highlands each September, even on family sheep-herding outings.

Jón and Birgir may be exceptionally keen on football, and talented (Jón has been offered a soccer scholarship to the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and a few weeks after we meet, Birgir is selected to play for the under-17 national team). But could the significant rise in the percentage of kids who take part in organised sport four or more times a week be bringing benefits beyond raising healthier children?

Could it, for instance, have anything to do with Iceland’s crushing defeat of England in the Euro 2016 football championship? When asked, Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir, who was voted Woman of the Year in Iceland in 2016, smiles: “There is also the success in music, like Of Monsters and Men [an indie folk-pop group from Reykjavik]. These are young people who have been pushed into organised work. Some people have thanked me,” she says, with a wink.

Elsewhere, cities that have joined Youth in Europe are reporting other benefits. In Bucharest, for example, the rate of teen suicides is dropping alongside use of drink and drugs. In Kaunas, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third between 2014 and 2015.

As Inga Dóra says: “We learned through the studies that we need to create circumstances in which kids can lead healthy lives, and they do not need to use substances, because life is fun, and they have plenty to do – and they are supported by parents who will spend time with them.”

When it comes down to it, the messages – if not necessarily the methods – are straightforward. And when he looks at the results, Harvey Milkman thinks of his own country, the US. Could the Youth in Iceland model work there, too?

Three hundred and twenty-five million people versus 330,000. Thirty-three thousand gangs versus virtually none. Around 1.3 million homeless young people versus a handful.

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Iceland’s government has made a long-term commitment to supporting the national project

Clearly, the US has challenges that Iceland does not. But the data from other parts of Europe, including cities such as Bucharest with major social problems and relative poverty, shows that the Icelandic model can work in very different cultures, Milkman argues. And the need in the US is high: underage drinking accounts for about 11 per cent of all alcohol consumed nationwide, and excessive drinking causes more than 4,300 deaths among under-21 year olds every year.

A national programme along the lines of Youth in Iceland is unlikely to be introduced in the US, however. One major obstacle is that while in Iceland there is long-term commitment to the national project, community health programmes in the US are usually funded by short-term grants.

Milkman has learned the hard way that even widely applauded, gold-standard youth programmes aren’t always expanded, or even sustained. “With Project Self-Discovery, it seemed like we had the best programme in the world,” he says. “I was invited to the White House twice. It won national awards. I was thinking: this will be replicated in every town and village. But it wasn’t.”

He thinks that is because you can’t prescribe a generic model to every community because they don’t all have the same resources. Any move towards giving kids in the US the opportunities to participate in the kinds of activities now common in Iceland, and so helping them to stay away from alcohol and other drugs, will depend on building on what already exists. “You have to rely on the resources of the community,” he says.

His colleague Álfgeir Kristjánsson is introducing the Icelandic ideas to the state of West Virginia. Surveys are being given to kids at several middle and high schools in the state, and a community coordinator will help get the results out to parents and anyone else who could use them to help local kids. But it might be difficult to achieve the kinds of results seen in Iceland, he concedes.

​Short-termism also impedes effective prevention strategies in the UK, says Michael O’Toole, CEO of Mentor, a charity that works to reduce alcohol and drug misuse in children and young people. Here, too, there is no national coordinated alcohol and drug prevention programme. It’s generally left to local authorities or to schools, which can often mean kids are simply given information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol – a strategy that, he agrees, evidence shows does not work.

O’Toole fully endorses the Icelandic focus on parents, school and the community all coming together to help support kids, and on parents or carers being engaged in young people’s lives. Improving support for kids could help in so many ways, he stresses. Even when it comes just to alcohol and smoking, there is plenty of data to show that the older a child is when they have their first drink or cigarette, the healthier they will be over the course of their life.

But not all the strategies would be acceptable in the UK – the child curfews being one, parental walks around neighbourhoods to identify children breaking the rules perhaps another. And a trial run by Mentor in Brighton that involved inviting parents into schools for workshops found that it was difficult to get them engaged.

Public wariness and an unwillingness to engage will be challenges wherever the Icelandic methods are proposed, thinks Milkman, and go to the heart of the balance of responsibility between states and citizens. “How much control do you want the government to have over what happens with your kids? Is this too much of the government meddling in how people live their lives?”

In Iceland, the relationship between people and the state has allowed an effective national programme to cut the rates of teenagers smoking and drinking to excess – and, in the process, brought families closer and helped kids to become healthier in all kinds of ways. Will no other country decide that these benefits are worth the costs?

By Emma Young

This article was first published by Wellcome on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence

The Ark Sails on Sunday from Kennedyville…

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Amid the fields of corn and soybeans that surround Shrewsbury Parish, on Sunday April 30, the children of that Episcopal church will launch an ark they began building last July.

Fr. Henry Sabetti talks about raising rabbits.

The Vacation Bible School students will present a check for over $5,000 to Asmi Patel, Community Engagement Coordinator for Heifer International at the ten o’clock service. The “Ark” is a partnership with the VBS and Heifer International, an organization committed to ending hunger and poverty.

Last summer Shrewsbury kids learned firsthand that they could send gifts to children who don’t have enough to eat through the Heifer faith-focused VBS curriculum, Animal Crackers. Shrewsbury wanted to Teach the Children Well by making them aware they are part of a larger family, and show them a way to help others.

Thirty-nine youngsters from three to fourteen, a number from the Latino community, took on the mission with enthusiasm, raising enough money themselves to purchase two goats, two flocks of chickens and a trio of rabbits to help hungry children.

More than ten percent of the world lives with food insecurity. “The need is so great to provide sustainable agriculture through animals,” said The Very Reverend Henry M. Sabetti, rector of Shrewsbury.

Inspired by the VBS kids, parishioners and other friends of the church donated more than was required to fill an entire gift “Ark”. Bees, chicks, water buffaloes, cows, sheep and more are sent two by two, to produce life-giving milk, honey, wool and eggs. Impoverished communities benefit not only with animals, but also with training in husbandry to foster an ongoing income source.

All are welcome this Sunday, or any Sunday, to attend the celebration with a reception in Hughes Hall afterwards. The church is located
12824 Shrewsbury Church Road, Kennedyville. This summer Shrewsbury Parish VBS will host Animal Crackers Redux. For more information, call the parish office at 410.348.5944.

Benchworks Hosts “Sip and Shop” Fashion Show

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On Sunday, April 30, Benchworks will host a “Sip and Shop” fundraiser to benefit the Kent County Food Pantry’s Backpack Program. This program provides weekend food assistance for 285 elementary and middle school students in Kent County. Fifteen percent of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Backpack Program.

The public is invited to attend the trunk show, featuring spring fashions by J.McLaughlin, anytime between 12-5pm. It will be held at Lauretum, a former bed and breakfast located at 954 High Street in Chestertown.

Josie Worthington, manager at J. McLaughlin, is excited about the upcoming event and explained that this program is vital to many children in the area. “This fundraiser is one way to help ensure that we can continue to provide meals for those children who otherwise would not have adequate food resources outside of the school day,” Worthington said. “We are thrilled with the support from Benchworks and everyone in the community who contributes in some way to this important initiative.”

Taylor Porter, account manager at Benchworks said, “This will be a fun event where people can shop, sample some spring beverages, and socialize. Plus, they will be helping to support the efforts of this very worthwhile cause.”

Benchworks, a comprehensive marketing services agency headquartered in Chestertown, Maryland, was founded in 1991. With offices in Philadelphia and Boston, the company specializes in the design, production, and launch of complete marketing and branding services. Clients include a wide variety of companies in the life science, pharmaceutical, beverage, manufacturing, and education industries in North America and Europe. For additional information, visit www.Benchworks.com or call 800-536-4670.

Recovery: Former Addict Speaks at WC April 21

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Michael DeLeon, a former addict and gang member who spent 12 years in prison, will present “Under the Influence,” a program on combatting substance abuse, at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 21. on the Washington College Campus.

After his release, DeLeon founded Steered Straight, a non-profit program designed to inform youth of the dangers of drug use and gang activity. He is the producer of the award-winning documentaries “Kids Are Dying” and “An American Epidemic.” His impassioned speeches have brought home his message to more than five million young people. He takes the time to answer questions from anyone in the audience. He says, “I don’t want to affect just one kid; I want to affect them all “

DeLeon’s speech, at 5:30 p.m. in Room 100, Goldstein Hall, is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Kent County Behavior Health. For more information, call 410-778-7918

Save the Date: Arbor Day Needs Volunteers

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Bartlett Tree Experts, in collaboration with Broadleaf Tree Service and Anthony Tree Experts will be volunteering their services to the Chestertown Garden Club and the Town of Chestertown to celebrate Arbor Day on Tuesday, April 25 th . Broadleaf Tree Service and Anthony Tree Experts are both long-time local companies that have recently joined up with Bartlett Tree Experts. Together they will celebrate their commitment to caring for trees in the community by pruning the large oak and maple trees in the fountain park.

The public is invited to attend to witness the arborists’ professional prowess and skill in climbing and working within the tree canopies. The crews will be working to clean the crowns of the trees to remove dead wood, broken branches, rubbing limbs, and low hanging limbs. The pruning is intended enhance the health, physical structure, safety, longevity, and aesthetic value of the trees.

Attendees, please be advised that there will be barricaded work areas. To ensure the safety of the public, it is absolutely necessary that no one enters the designated areas.

For more information please contact Judge Anthony at (410) 778-3385 or Jonathan Cowherd at(410) 708-3702.

Letter to Editor: Yes, We Need More Civility

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We appreciate efforts to encourage civility, particularly during these stressful times. Let us also agree, though, that while civility requires listening respectfully, the ability to engage in constructive dialogue is essential to making progress. In that vein we might even recognize the likelihood that Dr. Harris’s town hall audience was more interested in policy than expressing animosity toward Trump supporters. We all have friends who do not share our views in the voting booth.

We very likely also disagree about health care reform. Dr. Harris emphasized that Medicare isn’t single payer, and that we must look to the VA. His town hall audience groaned. Under ideal circumstances, we would be more likely to listen to one another attentively and agree that Medicare is a single payer base. There was no acknowledgement that Medicare works very much like the health care in so many other industrialized nations, though, delivering better outcomes to all of their citizens at far less cost while incorporating supplemental coverage.

Under ideal circumstances, listening is a reciprocal activity and facts would prevail. There may be little opportunity for dialogue at a town hall, but our reactions were communicated. Dr. Harris was cheered for supporting efforts to reduce pollution in our Chesapeake Bay, and not only for agreeing with most of us, but for essentially acknowledging that a healthy Bay supports a healthy economy.

Concerning our nation’s debt, we listened respectfully for as long as we could, which admittedly wasn’t long. We might have hoped to hear an acknowledgement that President Obama had reduced our deficit. That was a long shot, although every Democratic president since

WWII has reduced our budget deficits. We would have also appreciated hearing that while our debt is huge now, Dr. Harris’s party left us with more debt as a share of our economy. Hearing that our government is spending less as a percentage of our economy than nearly every other industrialized nation would definitely have cleared a path toward civility.

It is a laudable endeavor. Doing what it takes may be challenging, though. Let’s hope we are up to the task. Listening to others and treating them in the way we would like to be treated is an essential part of that process, but without a rational, fact-based dialogue we may not reach our goals.

Carol Voyles

More information can be found on these sites.

https://data.oecd.org/gga/general-government-spending.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_per_capita
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective
http://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0011_health-outcomes

Recovery: Inaugural Tri-County Prevention Walk set for May 13

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The inaugural tri-county prevention walk is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, May 13 at Church Hill park in Church Hill, and supports efforts at keeping our communities drug- and alcohol-free.

The free walk is a collaborative effort from the prevention offices of Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, with the theme, ‘Making a difference – one step at a time.’

“This walk is for anyone who’s had drugs or alcohol affect their lives,” said Annette Duckery, prevention coordinator for Kent County. “We’re working hard to prevent drug use and alcohol abuse in our communities, and this offers everyone the chance to support our efforts.”

The event includes fun for the entire family, with a live DJ, free back packs, snacks and games including corn hole. Registration is available online at Eventbrite.

The walk coincides with National Prevention Week, which is an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, mental and/or substance use disorders. This year’s prevention week is from May 14 until May 20.

“National prevention week offers the perfect opportunity to show our solidarity in the fight against substance use disorders,” said Iris Carter, prevention coordinator for Queen Anne’s County. “With several overdoses in our area each week, we’ve got to come together and support prevention efforts across our region.”

Prevention efforts start young, and can help keep drug use from starting.

“We all can invest in drug and alcohol prevention,” said Melanie Rodriguez, prevention coordinator for Caroline County. “Prevention really IS the best treatment.

For more information on the walk, please contact Duckery at 410-778-7918 for Kent County; Carter at 410-758-1306 ext. 4524 in Queen Anne’s and Rodriguez at 410-479-8164 in Caroline. The Tri-County Prevention Walk is a collaboration between the health department prevention offices of Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties. The walk also is supported by SAMHSA and the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration.

Job Shadowing Shows Pathways for Kent County STEM Students

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Kent County sophomores recently got a taste of real world occupations when they visited a variety of local businesses that employ professionals in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each year, eight leading Kent County businesses open their doors and share their expertise with local STEM students as they begin to make plans for the future.

Chesapeake Architects President, Peter Newlin, explains the importance of discussing personal preferences, lifestyle considerations and functional priorities with each client before beginning the design process.

In order to chart realistic and rewarding career paths, students need a clear understanding of the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of the professions they are considering. That’s where the annual job showing program comes in, by introducing students to a variety of experienced professionals who each describe the daily demands and routines of his or her particular occupation. They also discuss the educational requirements needed, specialty areas within each field, and long-term trends that might affect future job opportunities. The program is a timely resource for students as they begin considering secondary education and the courses they will need.

Students witness an amazing display of power and poise exhibited by a massive robot that was recently purchased by Dixon Valve & Coupling to handle inventory demands.

Kent County STEM students, their parents and teachers are thankful for the businesses and professionals who share their time and resources to make the program a success. Participating businesses included Benchworks, Chesapeake Architects, Chesapeake CNC, Dixon Valve & Coupling, DMS & Associates, Eastman Specialty Corp., University of Maryland Extension and University of Maryland Shore Medical Center.


Civil engineer and partner in DMS and Associates, Kevin Shearon, points out the logistical considerations that had to be addressed prior to the construction of Washington College’s new academic building.