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Oregon's first "Kid Gov" inaugurated, emotional support for Bend-La Pine students, keeping tobacco away from kids

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Oregon's First "Kid Gov" Inaugurated

Here's a new way to teach kids civics in Oregon: elect a kid governor. That's exactly what Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has done since his time in office, implementing a "Kid Governor" program in the state last year, in the hopes of engaging fifth graders in learning about government through hands-on experience.

According to Richardson's office, about 20 kids submitted videos as part of the competition last year, detailing an issue they felt passionate about. Following that, more than 1,500 fifth graders voted in the election, selecting Dom Peters, who ran on an anti-bullying platform.

"I really hope I can make a difference in the state of Oregon to stop bullying. Ending bullying starts with us working together," Dom said during his Jan. 8 inauguration at the Oregon State Capitol. "I hope that 5th graders in Oregon will join me in writing stories to teach each other to be kind and caring to one another."

Peters is a student at Willamette Valley Christian School in Brooks, Ore.

"The Kid Governor program is a participatory democracy in action," said Secretary Richardson in a Jan. 8 release. "What we've found is, by having 5th graders participate in this whole process, they learn much more than if they are just receiving a lecture." 

Follow along on Peters' adventures as Kid Gov at orkgdom.blogspot.com.

New Emotional Support Resources for Bend-La Pine Students

Bend-La Pine Schools has rolled out a new resource to help kids—and adults—manage mental health crises and other socio-emotional challenges. "First Step" is a suite of "Tip and Talk" resources loaded onto the school iPads of students grades six to 12 in Bend-La Pine Schools. Elementary students can also access First Step at firststeporegon.org.

Resources include contacts for free counseling through partners including St. Charles Health System Behavioral Health, OSU-Cascades Counseling Clinic, Lutheran Community Services NW and Deschutes County Behavioral Health. Also available through the suite is a reporting system called SafeOregon, allowing students to report information about student or school safety 24 hours a day. That can include reporting concerns about cyberbulling or vandalism, according to the District.

Additional resources include a connection to YouthLine, a teen-to-teen help line that students can access through phone, text, chat or email. Teens are available to help from 4 to 10 pm, and adults are available on the help line during other times of the day and night.

Keeping Tobacco Away from Kids

In August, Oregon became the fifth state in the U.S. to increase the age to buy tobacco products. Enforcement of the new Oregon law, known as "Tobacco 21" began on January 1, moving the legal age to buy cigarettes, vaporizers and other tobacco products from 18 to 21. State health officials say the move was intended to keep tobacco products away from young people. Oregon's State Health Officer, Katrina Hedberg, MD, said in a release that nine out of 10 adults (who use tobacco) reported starting smoking before the age of 19, with 100 percent starting before the age of 26.

"The earlier kids start using tobacco, the more at risk they are for becoming addicted to tobacco and developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma and cancer," Hedberg said in a release from the Oregon Health Authority. "Raising the legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 can reduce smoking rates and reduce tobacco-related deaths." 


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