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Flathead High Campaign Promotes Healthy Choices
Parent group has organized event with activities and speakers
Former Flathead High School student Luke Dowler, right, performs during the first lunch period at FHS in Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
In the wake of headlines highlighting student conduct infractions at Flathead High School, a parent group has launched a campaign encouraging teenagers to make good decisions and reminding the community of the many positives at the school that don’t make the news.

A number of news stories over the fall have focused on behavior-related incidents involving Flathead athletes and the subsequent court proceedings that stemmed from one of those incidents.

Kelly Osborne, a parent, said the negative exposure, combined with other separate infractions among the student populace such as alcohol possession, underscores the importance of promoting sound decision-making in both the school and community.

Furthermore, she said, the publicity paints an unfair picture of Flathead High School’s students.

“This year’s had a rough start,” Osborne said. “We’ve had a lot of negative things happen that have caught some negative headlines, but the reality is that we have 1,400 students at Flathead High School and most of them are doing well and making good decisions.”

Osborne is involved with a parent group that has organized a weeklong event on Nov. 15-19 using the motto: “Brave Enough to Be the Change.” Former students are coming to tell their stories and emphasize the importance of making healthy choices in high school. Information is being disseminated on issues such as drug and alcohol use among teenagers.

There are also activities that address the dangers of driving under the influence, texting while driving and other unsafe behavior. Activities include a game in which students come up with “25 things to do in the Flathead that are fun, legal, moral and ethical,” as well as driving a Big Wheel around while wearing goggles that mimic the effects of alcohol impairment.

Among the Flathead alumni helping out are musician Luke Dowler, Miss Montana Kacie West and television news anchor Andrea Lutz. Lex Hilliard, a former Braves standout and current professional football player, is putting together a video and has donated a ball autographed by the Miami Dolphins’ football team and other memorabilia.

The week ends with two assemblies held by motivational speaker Mac Bledsoe on Friday. All of the events take place in the commons area during the school’s two lunch hours except for Bledsoe’s presentations, which are in the morning before lunch, Osborne said. Area businesses have also made donations.

The parent group recognizes that teenagers often think in terms of the present and don’t fully grasp how their decisions today carry lasting impacts on their future: jobs, college and personal growth. By bringing in successful former students to speak, the parents hope students can better see how their choices are inter-connected.

“It is possible to go to Flathead High School, to be successful, to make good choices and make an impact in the world,” Osborne said. “They don’t realize that the long-term effects of their decisions could prevent them from pursuing their goals.”

Osborne said the weeklong event is only the first step in a greater community campaign to promote positive life messages, for both youths and the adults mentoring them. The parent group was formed last year under the direction of Principal Peter Fusaro and meets regularly.

Robyn Balcom said another part of the group’s mission is to help teachers and administrators.

“We want to tell staff, ‘We’re in this with you,’” Balcom said. “We as parents don’t want to just be the complainers or the people you track down when someone gets in trouble.”

She added: “We always say, ‘What can we do that tell the teachers that we care? What can we do to tell the students that we care?”

A major goal of the campaign is to equip teenagers with the knowledge and guidance they need to create their own change. Then they can pass that along to their peers. It’s positive peer pressure.

“There’s an element of bravery it takes not only to not do the wrong thing but also to encourage other people to do the right thing,” Balcom said. “We’ve tried to tie in the ‘Brave’ thing – will you be brave enough to be that positive role model?”
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