Newly elected Newton County Community Coalition President, Marty Yust, presided over the February meeting on Tuesday.

Newly elected Newton County Community Coalition President, Marty Yust, presided over the February meeting on Tuesday.
Members approved the minutes from the January meeting. Yust and the Veteran's Service Coordinator at Crowder College, Luis Cecenas spoke to the group about plans to restructure the group and create new branding in the coming months.  
According to Cecenas, those plans include expanding the coalition's focus into three areas which include safety, health/mental health, and substance abuse. Cecenas attended the national Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA) meeting in Washington D.C. in February and brought back some ideas.
"They made it personal," Cecenas said. "If we can shift toward that, toward making it personal, it would help with re-branding."
The coalition would also like to have more community participation including some teen members. To that end, the guest speaker presented a program tailored for teenagers in Missouri.
Kacey Buschjost state youth coordinator with the TRACTION program, detailed what the program is and how area teens can participate. Formerly known as Teen Spirit, TRACTION recognizes that traffic accidents are a leading cause of death and serious injury for Missouri teens. TRACTION is part of the Missouri Department of Transportation's Highway Safety Division
 TRACTION is designed to empower youth to take an active role in decreasing unsafe driving habits like driver  inattention, the use of alcohol and other drugs that can cause impaired driving, and encouraging all teens to buckle up.
Buschjost explained how the program works through 3-day conferences that involve 6 to 12 students along with two advisors. At least one of the advisors must be someone with the teens' school district.
Conferences in 2018 include one in Springfield, June 3-5, one in Cape Girardeau, July 22-24 and a session in Columbia, July 26-28.
"It's hard to describe unless you've been there and seen it," Buschjost said. "We make it fun and exciting. We do a lot of stuff in the evenings. We have a guy from Alaska who does a drum circle. He has hundreds of drums. We build a 35 feet long whale, it's life size, and we do a Food Olympics."
She suggested teens be part of an organized program, such as Students Against Drunk Drivers, National Honor Society, or even student council. "We want people who are going to take the action back to implement it," Buschjost said.
TRACTION seeks to accomplish this mission by providing youth and their adult advisors with the motivation, information, skills and support necessary to develop a plan of action that addresses unsafe driving habits. It also promotes safety belt usage through events and activities they implement within their schools and communities.
Neosho Schools Resource Police Officer Phillip Whiteman commented, "I've tried to plug this to the high school and had a lukewarm reception."
Buschjost suggested that Whiteman might share some You Tube videos from previous TRACTION events. "That would be the way to sell it," she said.
"We want the action plan to be the students' idea," Buschjost stated. "What makes it work is that it's peer to peer action. We want it to be realistic and to be something they actually do. It (TRACTION) really does push students. We urge them to step out of their comfort zone. That way, they accomplish things they would never, ever do any other time."
Buschjost mentioned that all TRACTION team members are former participants.
The cost for any school that opts to participate is $100 for the 3-day session. Transportation to the event is not included and would be the responsibility of each school district.
Discussion regarding when Neosho schools will dismiss for summer led to a question of whether or not school would be out in time for Neosho students to attend the Springfield sessions.
"The schools want to do something," Cecenas said, "They just don't want one and done so this would be ideal."
Whiteman stated he would pursue the possibility of getting Neosho involved with the program.
In other new business, coalition president Yust confirmed that the group is a paid, active member of the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce. Membership will renew in June.
The coalition also noted that Marc Mero, a former WCW and WWE wrestling champion and founder of Champion of Choices, a non-profit organization will present a program to Neosho junior and senior high students on May 22. Mero is billed as America's #1 school presenter. His message for students is to be against destructive decisions and to make positive life choices. His programs are tailored to specific age levels.
The Newton County Community Coalition will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, March 21 from noon to 1 p.m. at The Talkington Foundation, located at 209 North Valley Street in Neosho.
They also have a Facebook page where community members can learn more about their activities.