The West Fargo School District has started a series of community forums to help bring awareness to issues facing students. The second forum, on November 14th, 2018 focused on student substance abuse and addiction.
Principal Jennifer Fremstad did not speak on the panel at the forum, but was present that night. She believes because students at the secondary level are becoming more independent, the school should promote that there are people who care about them beyond their family.
“We realized we can do only so much within our system. So, as a school, we can have policies and we can have procedures that we believe keep kids safe and protected. But, they are only here a certain amount of time,” Fremstad said. “So we really wanted to build connections with community agencies and provide that resource of people.”
Assistant Chief Jerry Boyer was the West Fargo police representative at the forum on November 14th. Boyer also is a parent of a child in in the West Fargo School District and another joining next year.
“Ensuring the safety of our children is a top priority in the police department. Whether it is the physical safety inside of each school… or people with illegal drugs and tobacco use,” Boyer said. “The safety of our children is critical in our mission of the police department, that is why we have dedicated five full-time SRO’s to our schools.”
The department plans on adding another School Resource Officer in the next couple years although the department did not say what level the officer would be at. The forum had many guest speakers, but one of the speakers made the room become silent with their story.
Mike and Mary beth Traynor lost their son, Matthew,
to the world of drugs. Their mission is to try and help others.They created a foundation called MATTO. MATTO, Matthew’s nickname, was created so that family and friends could channel energy and effort into tackling the drug use in the Fargo-Moorhead community and beyond.
“I think it [the forum] brings awareness about drugs and what they can do to people and their families. It also points out that it is not just a big city problem; it is a problem right here in West Fargo.” Mike said. “Whenever we speak to people I like to speak to the young people. You have to be ready, someone is going to come to you, maybe they already have. It gets a lot easier when it comes to this moment.”
Mary Beth is aware that the foundation cannot reach out and help every person but she still believes she can help. The family’s journey with their son’s addiction has been hard, but also eye opening to the world of drug use in adolescents.
“We have been through a lot as a family with our son’s addiction. If we can help one person, that is a success and we know we will not save the world,” Mary Beth said. “But by our message that parents can be empowered and students can be empowered.”