A virtual morning of prevention education just for graduating seniors took place on March 18, 2021. Buffalo County Senior Day, sponsored by the Buffalo County Partnership Council, is an opportunity for graduating 12th grade students across Buffalo County to think critically about potential risk behaviors from local speakers. The event centered on building strong communication and relationship skills for transition to college, the military, or the workplace and considering the consequences of one’s choices related to the use of alcohol and drugs. Twelfth graders from Alma, Gilmanton, Mondovi and Cochrane-Fountain City schools all participated via Zoom.
This year’s Senior Day speakers included renowned family and youth advocate, Mike McGowan, who has presented to over two million students in his years as a professional therapist and speaker. McGowan’s keynote address focused on preparing youth for life after high school. He shared with young people how resilient he sees them through the COVID-19 pandemic and how important it is to use a positive mindset now and in the future. McGowan has been an integral part of Buffalo County Partnership Council Senior Day for nearly two decades, yet he shared important new messages about preparing for making connections with others at college or in the workforce and considering impacts of social media content in obtaining future jobs. He encouraged seniors with personal stories from his own family and children while infusing humor and messages of hope.
Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department Detective Mike Osmond spoke to graduating students about many of the results of poor choices he has observed as a law enforcement officer. He shared professional experiences related to the illegal use of meth and told graduating seniors that as mature young adults they need to know that marijuana is a gateway drug. He also discussed cases regarding sexual assault and internet crimes and reminded students that they are making adult decisions every day. Osmond shared real life photos from Buffalo County and the surrounding local region. He encouraged students to report individuals and situations that endanger children by placing them in the harm of drugs.
Shane Urness is also an integral part of Buffalo County Partnership Council’s Senior Day. For fifteen years, Urness has shared about the total impact that resulted from poor choices he made in rural Gilmanton in 2004. Urness spoke genuinely and candidly to high school seniors about the real-life consequences associated with drinking and driving. Urness told students about the physical, emotional, and financial pain he endures as a result of his decision to get behind the wheel after a night of heavy drinking. As a result, Urness does not call the event an accident. He names it what it was – a crash. He reminds students that he made the intentional decision to drink alcohol. He tells seniors he gives his presentation because he does not want anyone to be in his situation or to feel the grief him, his victims and their families endure every day. Urness’ story is a powerful one that silences the auditorium and encourages students to truly consider the multitude of consequences that could follow a young adult for their entire life if they choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Buffalo County Senior Day was made possible in part by a donation from the Tony Myren family. Stay connected with the Buffalo County Partnership Council for the latest on youth development research, effective prevention strategies and updates from our campaigns and events! For more information and photos from Senior Day please visit https://buffalo.extension.wisc.edu/bcpc or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/buffalocountypartnershipcouncil