South Dakota co-op making positive impact in teens’ lives

A lineman from West Central Electric Cooperative holds a fake downed power line during the mock drunk driving crash that is part of Freshman Impact.

A lineman from West Central Electric Cooperative holds a fake downed power line during the mock drunk driving crash that is part of Freshman Impact.

Today’s teens face many social challenges, ranging from drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, and the new trends of cyberbullying and texting while driving. Sometimes, the consequences of their decisions in these situations can leave families, friends and communities reeling from the impact.

But South Dakota communities like Murdo, the home to West Central Electric Cooperative, a Class C member of Basin Electric, are taking a stand to educate teens in hopes of preventing bad situations, thanks to a program called Freshman Impact.

This day-long program targets South Dakota high school freshman and arms them with knowledge and skills to make safe choices and to prevent destructive behaviors that can lead to bodily injury and death. Freshman Impact features learning stations that cover topics of teen dating, drugs, mental health/ suicide prevention, cyberbullying, texting, along with simulators of drunk driving and the effects of not wearing a seat belt if a car rolls over. The pillar of the program is a mock drunk driving car crash, which provides the students with an as-real-as- possible experience without having to experience an actual tragedy.

This year’s mock car crash included a downed power line. As a result, West Central played an active role. Joe Connot, member services representative at West Central, says he was excited when Freshman Impact coordinators contacted him about including a downed power line. “Any time we can educate our youth to be safe, whether it’s electrical safety or drug and alcohol safety, we’ll do anything they ask us to do,” Connot says.

Freshman Impact was started in 2006 by South Dakota Highway Patrol Sergeant Kelly Stern and Pennington County Deputy Rick McPherson. What started out as a program reaching two schools now reaches 29 South Dakota schools and is growing. Freshman Impact’s parent non-profit organization, C.O.R.E (Community Organized Resources for Educating youth), has a goal to expand the program statewide. It’s also endorsed by the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

Read more about Freshman Impact in the May-June issue of Basin Today.

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