2Communities, One Mission

Region 16 task force has a new brand, same message

Woodland Regional High School freshman Rebecca Sticco, left, and sophomore Jason Dupre work on a public service announcement for the Region 16 Community Prevention Task Force, also known as 2COM, in the Hawks Productions studio Dec. 2 at the high school in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland Regional High School freshman Rebecca Sticco, left, and sophomore Jason Dupre work on a public service announcement for the Region 16 Community Prevention Task Force, also known as 2COM, in the Hawks Productions studio Dec. 2 at the high school in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

REGION 16 — Ralph Riello, the advisor for Hawk Productions at Woodland Regional High School, walked into his classroom/studio after school on a Monday early this month and immediately began brainstorming on a public service announcement with the half dozen or so students in the room.  

Riello had just come from a meeting of the Region 16 Community Prevention Task Force, where among the topics discussed was the rising number of electronic cigarettes being confiscated at the high school. The task force wants Hawk Productions to put together a PSA on the issue. Riello suggested a couple ways to approach the project, including drawing a correlation between the amount of money wasted on the confiscated contraband, then the students turned back to their work.

The task force, which is comprised of Region 16 Board of Education members, teachers, law enforcement officials, school administrators and counselors, youth and citizens, is in the midst of a rebranding. The task force is working to extend its reach beyond the classroom to include the communities of Beacon Falls and Prospect, which make up the Region 16 school district.

In June, the task force was behind the “Parents Who Host, Lose The Most” campaign, which was an advisory to parents against hosting parties where alcohol is available to anyone under 21 years old.

As part of the rebranding, the task force is now also going by the name 2COM, which stands for 2Communities, One Mission.

The new brand is to show that it’s not Region 16, Beacon Falls and Prospect, said Wendy Oliveira, a member of the Region 16 school board and co-chair of the task force, but rather the district and towns are three entities combined.

“We’re all working together for the same purpose — to get our youth to avoid risky behaviors,” Oliveira said.

To help with that purpose, 2COM conducted a survey developed by Search Institute of Minneapolis to determine how youth are experiencing 40 developmental assets. The survey measures 20 external and internal assets.

According to the Search Institute’s website, the developmental assets are 40 common sense, positive experiences and qualities that help influence choices young people make and help them become caring, responsible, successful adults. The more assets youth have, the less likely they are to take part in high risk behaviors, according to the Search Institute.

The survey was taken in May by 883 students in seventh- through 12th-grades. A similar survey was done in 2010, but only students in eighth and 10th grades participated. The survey cost $4,500. The towns of Prospect and Beacon Falls paid $2,000 each to fund the study, and the remaining $500 was paid by the school district.

Trish Spofford, a member of 2COM and parent, presented an executive summary of the survey to the school board in November.

According to the summary, the youth on average have about 20 assets.

“We want our kids to have as many assets as we can possibly get them,” Spofford told the board.

Spofford touched on a few of the highlights and lowlights from the survey.

According to the summary, 75 percent of youth surveyed feel their family life provides a high level of love and    support and 76 percent are optimistic about their future.

“We’ve got kids that are positive about their future and they want to do well,” Spofford said.

Not all of the results were as positive though. Only 24 percent of youth surveyed perceive that adults in the community value them and just 39 percent feel it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs, according to the survey.

Spofford said 2COM exists because of the latter figure.   

Spofford said 2COM will pick one or two assets to try to improve them and plans to conduct another survey in two years to see if any improvement was made.

2COM will also present the results of the survey to community and school organizations, Spofford said, to help spread the task force’s message and let people know what 2COM is all about.

Getting the word out on 2COM is where the students at Woodland come into play. 2COM has teamed up with Hawks Productions as well as digital media and graphic design students to help spread the word.

“I believe in the mission of the task force, and my students have the technology, the interest and the desire to produce quality content, so why not have them support local clients with positive messages,” said Riello about helping out 2COM.

So far, the students have created “brand awareness spots” to introduce 2COM to the community and have produced two PSAs — one on bullying and the other on The Great American Smokeout, Riello said. The videos can be viewed on Hawks Productions’ YouTube channel.

Woodland junior Rosemary Donnelly worked on a spot that featured students from Beacon Falls and Prospect coming together. The spot, she said, illustrates the point that the two communities are one.

Aside from helping out 2COM, Riello said, working with the task force also provides the students with some real-world experience. The concepts for the branding spots were storyboarded, developed, produced, shot and edited by the students, he said, and Hawk Productions is run like an actual ad agency with video production capabilities.

“The goal is for students to interact in real-world professional situations with external clients,” said Riello, who added he’s proud that much of the work being done by the students is on their own time.

For juniors Ryan Holland and Ewelina Lemansky working on the project, and Hawks Productions in general, allows them the opportunity to develop skills in an area they enjoy.

Kalentek said she’s always been interested in technology and digital media.

“It’s been really fun,” said Holland, who works on editing the PSAs. “I enjoy doing it a lot.”

While the project provides the students with real-world experience and the chance to help out, senior Olivia Kalentek said, in the end the students’ effort will help spread awareness.

“It brings awareness to 2COM and Hawks Productions and brings awareness of issues happening in the community,” she said.

The future plans for 2COM include working to bring Rachel’s Challenge to Region 16 schools.

Rachel’s Challenge is a series of programs and strategies that equip students and adults to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion, according to the organization’s website. The programs are based on the writings and life of 17 year-old Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

“We’re looking at trying to change the environment, but in a very positive way,” Spofford said.

2COM is working to raise the $16,000 needed to bring the program to each school in the district and hopes to have it in place for the fall of 2014, according to Spofford.

As part of the fundraising efforts, 2COM is selling Hawks apparel at www.signsandshirts.com, Oliveira said.

The task force meets the first Monday of the month at 2:15 p.m. at Woodland. New members are welcome.

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