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Focus on Rural Health

Community Stages “Skittle Skool” to Help Tackle Big Issues Facing Youth

By Brenda Haugen on

Stanley students
Stanley students in grades 7-12 looked over handouts they received during Skittle Skool. The handouts were designed to give the students information on making good choices and to stimulate discussions with their parents.

One of the latest – and most dangerous – fads for middle and high school students is called a Skittle party. Young people raid their parents' medicine cabinets and take any pills they can find. They bring the pills to the party and drop them in a bowl. Then each party goer randomly picks a pill from the bowl and takes it.

You probably think this could never happen in your community. However, at a meeting with community services agencies working to address the opioid crisis, the chief of staff at the Mountrail County Medical Center in Stanley, North Dakota, opened the community's eyes to the issue when he revealed that Skittle parties have actually happened in their small town.

activity with beer goggles
Interactive activities included using "beer goggles," which safely showed students how the use of alcohol can affect their judgment.

Staff from the medical center, the Stanley Police Department, Mountrail County Social Services, and other local organizations discussed everything from opioids and Skittle parties to bullying, suicide, healthy dating relationships, and other issues affecting local tweens and teens. They decided to take action, creating Skittle Skool 2018 right before Stanley's prom.

Held at Stanley High School, Skittle Skool was a day full of information for Stanley's 300 7th through 12th graders. Hosted by the Mountrail County Health Foundation, the Stanley Park District, and Stanley High School, the event included 17 presenters, ranging from pastors and counselors to law enforcement and healthcare professionals, talking about 12 topics. Through creative and interactive activities and conversation with students, the presenters addressed a variety of hidden dangers young people face. The topics included:

  • Sexting and How It Relates to Human Trafficking
  • Being Cruel Is Easy: Bullying Online and Off
  • Prescription and Illegal Drug Abuse
  • The Importance of a Healthy Diet for Your Developing Brain
  • Abstinence
  • Skittle Skool is just the start of what we want to do here in Mountrail County for our youth and our communities overall.
    Drug Exposure and Its Effects
  • The Effects of "Screens" on Mental Health
  • Suicide and Cutting/Self Harm
  • Healthy Dating Relationships
  • Tobacco and Marijuana Use
  • Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
  • How and When to Call 911 for an Overdose and Current Issues Being Seen by Local Law Enforcement

"Skittle Skool is just the start of what we want to do here in Mountrail County for our youth and our communities overall," said Stephanie Everett, director of the Mountrail County Health Foundation. "We look forward in working with all the presenters and planning future events to see what sort of movement we can start locally."

Giving our youth the knowledge to create a voice for change towards their future paths. Knowledge is power.

Adults involved with Skittle Skool hope the handouts students received during the activities, as well as a newsletter detailing all of the topics of discussion, would serve as a springboard for parents to talk to their children about these topics. If the reaction of the students was any indication, the event was a great success and a step toward meeting the Skittle Skool's mission: "Giving our youth the knowledge to create a voice for change towards their future paths. Knowledge is power."

Brenda Haugen Brenda Haugen is the communications specialist at the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Grand Forks.