Trumbull duo earns statewide honor for prevention video

Photo of Amanda Cuda
Left to right: Vicki Tesoro, Trumbull First Selectman, Officer Wes Bartosik, Lara Walden, Melissa McGarry, TPAUD Director and Kiersten Naumann, TPAUD Program Coordinator.

Left to right: Vicki Tesoro, Trumbull First Selectman, Officer Wes Bartosik, Lara Walden, Melissa McGarry, TPAUD Director and Kiersten Naumann, TPAUD Program Coordinator.

Contributed photo / TPAUD

TRUMBULL — The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of changes to school curricula throughout the region. In Trumbull, one such change was that the town’s prevention program, TPAUD couldn’t offer at least one of its key programs.

Every year, TPAUD presents D.A.R.E.’s keepin’ it REAL program to Trumbull’s fifth graders, said Kiersten Naumann, TPAUD program coordinator. Part of the national D.A.R.E. substance abuse prevention program, keepin’ it REAL teaches students in elementary and middle school about communication, peer pressure and other basic life skills.

When the program was suspended due to the pandemic, Naumann said, it was not surprising, but still disappointing.

“It does allow the kids to learn some really great strategies, like how to build communication skills and how to deal with peer pressure,” she said.

Then, Madison Middle School school resource officer Wes Bartosik stepped in and offered to record a series of videos for students on many of the same topics that the D.A.R.E. program would cover. Lara Walden, program manager for Trumbull Community Television, stepped in to do the filming and editing.

The videos, packaged under the name “Positive Choices, Healthy Kids” were made available to fifth grade families, and middle school students were able to view them, too. The program was such a success that Naumann nominated both Bartosik and Walden for Coalition Sector All-Star awards, which are given by the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals, a statewide network of prevention advocates.

The pair won the award, which honors those who have made a particularly strong impact in the field of prevention. Naumann said the recognition is deeply deserved.

“We felt like they had really gone above and beyond,” she said. “We were so thrilled and wanted to make sure they got the recognition they deserved.”

The 15-minute video covered such topics as “responsible decision making,” “peer pressure,” and “stress,” and each segment ended with a “conversation kick-off” that parents could use to speak with their kids about these topics.

That last piece impressed a lot of families, Naumann said.

“The parents don’t usually get to be part of that conversation,” she said.

Naumann said the videos received good feedback, and are now available on the TPAUD website. She said, though she hopes the D.A.R.E. program can come back soon. “Positive Choices, Healthy Kids,” was helpful in starting conversations, and she’s glad it’s available to everyone.

“It was a great community project,” she said.