It’s National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week

Nov. 17-23 is National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week, and here’s a press release from the Safe Kids Missoula Coalition:

Top Tips to Keep Kids Safe during National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week: November 17-23, 2014 from Safe Kids Missoula Coalition led by Community Medical Center Foundation. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.—these tips can help keep your teen safe behind the wheel!

Safe Kids Missoula recommends the following top driving safety tips.

1. Take action against distraction. Teach kids to put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until their final destination.

2. Think Ahead. Text before you get behind the wheel, plan your routes ahead of time.

3. Remember the risks. Consider the dangers of taking your eyes off the road, even for a few seconds. Avoid reading text messages; it’s as dangerous as sending a text message.

4. Let your actions speak as loud as your words. Set a good example for kids by putting devices down when you’re driving. If parents put devices down, kids are more likely to do the same.

5. Talk to your teens about how to be safe while driving. Have discussions about how to be safe while driving, including avoiding distractions such as texting, reading, reaching for electronic devices, eating, drinking and applying make-up.

6. Educate about local laws. Explain local laws to your teen and help them understand the importance of following these laws.


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National analysis shows public costs of teen pregnancy in MT

The private nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy sent over a summary of its latest analysis, which includes Montana-specific numbers.

In Montana, the campaign counts exactly 25,789 births to teenage mothers between 1991 and 2010. That, the campaign notes, represents a 25 percent decline in teen birth rates.

Nevertheless, the “public sector costs” of unplanned teen pregnancies – the increased use of public health care, child welfare services and, rather generally, “among those children who have reached adolescence and young adulthood, increased rates of incarceration and lost tax revenue due to decreased earnings and spending” – is pegged at $26 million a year.

Nation-wide, the campaign says taxpayers spend $9.4 billion annually on costs associated with teen pregnancy.

The information and new analysis gives “a conservative estimate of public costs, based on the increased risk of consequences faced by teen mothers, fathers, and their children as compared to mothers having children in their early twenties, controlling for many other factors,” according to the campaign. The research effort was started by the University of Delaware’s Dr. Saul Hoffman in 2004. It was paid for in part through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click here for more information.

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Mountain Home moving into new building – with Missoula’s support

Mountain HomeThis past Wednesday Mountain Home Montana cut the ribbon on its brand-new building, cheered on by the community. The nonprofit provides a home – and much, much more – for young pregnant women and new moms between the ages of 16 and 24.

The ribbon-cutting comes after a spate of recent misfortune, however. Floods, crib recalls, mold discoveries – not encouraging stuff. But it was met with an outpouring of community support.

As outlined in today’s Missoulian editorial, Mountain Home Montana could use just a little bit more support to see it through this critical time. It would be just wonderful if it could close out its capital campaign – only $240,000 more to go! – well before its September goal.

If you can help, visit Mountain Home Montana’s website at or call 541-4663.

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Get fired up about foster care with dinner and a documentary

The new documentary from Missoula producer Matt Anderson and Missoula filmmaker Paige Williams is a must-see. It’s called “From Place to Place.” I watched it last night and was incredibly moved by the stories of these young adults making their way in Missoula after aging out the foster care system.

Then I read Joe Nickell’s story about the documentary in this morning’s Entertainer and was moved again by the story of how this film came to be.

One of the things I really like about the documentary is that it ends with different people in the film directly telling us what we can do to help repair a badly broken situation: We can watch out for the kids in our neighborhood; we can check in on all our extended family members to make sure everyone’s accounted for; and, of course, we can become foster parents.

Whatever you do, you should watch this documentary. It is screening for the first time in Montana this upcoming Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. at the Wilma Theater. The doors will open at 6 p.m., and if you buy a ticket in advance (available through the website,, it’s only $5.

Here’s something else: For the past few years I have had the privilege of getting to know the fine folks at the Dan Fox Foster Care and Adoption Program, a part of Youth Homes Inc. I’ve seen first-hand just how much they care about these kids – and how hard they work to find them safe, loving, long-term families. I highly recommend that anyone interested in foster care or adoption check out their website or give them a call (721-2704 in Missoula).

And if you want to support Youth Homes, one fun way to do so is coming up on June 6. On that day, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., if you buy a burger (or veggie burger) at Scotty’s Table, the proceeds will be donated to Youth Homes.

The burgers at Scotty’s are all locally produced, and for $15 you get a burger, fries and a local beer. The restaurant is located in the bottom unit of the Wilma Theater, at 131 S. Higgins Ave.

For more information about the burger benefit call 541-1642.

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Teen pregnancy, foster care, and Child and Family Services

Lately I’m seeing a lot of opinions in the Missoulian having to do with mom stuff. I don’t know if it’s just the month of May being the month that’s home to Mother’s Day or what, but I’m liking it.

I do know that May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month – and I know this thanks to a letter to the editor from the Montana Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. That letter stated that “Each day in Montana, approximately three teens give birth” and went on to describe the challenges faces by these teen parents. It ended with a call to action: ” If parents, youth, schools, businesses, faith leaders and health care providers join together to address teen pregnancy, we can make a difference!”

Speaking of calls to action, the new documentary “From Place to Place,” produced by Missoula’s Matt Anderson, is already making huge waves – and it hasn’t even screened in Montana yet. The documentary follows the lives of two Missoula youth who age out of the foster care system – without a family.

These youth have become advocates for change; one spoke at a Montana child welfare conference earlier this month, and I understand they have spoken to other leaders in the national system as well. You can read Anderson’s guest column in the Missoulian here. And you can watch “From Place to Place” at its first Montana screening at the Wilma Theatre a week from today, on Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m.

And finally, in her guest column last week, Child and Family Services Division administrator Shirley K. Brown also had some important information to share – including information about how you can help protect Montana’s abused and neglected children:

In Montana, 903 children were removed from their homes because of child abuse or neglect from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010. The type of abuse experienced by these children includes physical neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and medical neglect.

Montana’s children are our future – children need a safe, stable family environment. Each individual in Montana can protect children who are being abused or neglected by reporting suspected abuse or neglect. To report concerns about a child’s safety, call 1-866-820-5437 (1-866-820-KIDS). Another way to help is by learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent. To learn about becoming a foster parent, call 1-866-939-7837 (1-866-9FOSTER) or email

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Whoa! Check out the entries for the Congressional Art Competition

There are only a few days left to vote for the Montana-wide winner of the 2011 Congressional Art Competition! Voting is scheduled to close this upcoming Sunday – Mother’s Day – and whether you pick a favorite or not, you will definitely want to browse through the entries.

The only place I could find them is on Rep. Denny Rehberg’s Facebook page. As Montana’s Congressman, he’s the guy corralling the entries from Montana’s high school students. He has 27 of them posted, and the talent and range of materials is absolutely stunning. There’s some pencil drawings, some paintings, a photograph, a couple of digital images … well, you just have to see them.

The submissions with the most votes will move on as finalists in the competition. In order to vote, however, it appears you have to “Like” Rehberg on Facebook first. If I have that wrong or the entries are available anyplace else, hopefully someone in the know will set me straight.

In a prepared statement, Rehberg had this to say about Facebook and the contest:

Facebook is not only an excellent place for me to directly interact with Montanans, it’s a remarkable forum to showcase the talents of our state’s young artists through The Congressional Art Competition. This year’s contest will be truly interactive, as the Facebook users will vote for their favorite submissions, helping me to select the finalists.  I hope everyone will log on to take a look.

For more information about the contest and the prizes – including college scholarships – you might want to check out my earlier posts on the subject.

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Gala fundraiser reading for Aerie International is this Thursday!

If you aren’t familiar with Big Sky High School’s award-winning international literary arts magazine, Aerie International, you are missing out.

This Thursday brings an opportunity to correct that. The Dana Gallery in downtown Missoula is hosting the fourth annual gala fundraiser and reading for the student publication. The family-friendly event will feature art, poetry, music, world food and more.

For a taste, check out this photo by 18-year-old Carrie Klemencic of Lawrence, Kansas:

Carrie Klemencic_Within ReachSample

Amazing, right?

More talent of this caliber – and coming from all over the globe – will be on display while student editors read original work AND selections from the next issue of Aerie International, all while guest readers and advisory board members – writers Tami Haaland, Debra Magpie Earling, David Allan Cates, Robert Stubblefield, Caroline Patterson and Robert Lee – mill around.

The night kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with live jazz and international hors d’ouerves, and drop-ins are welcome throughout the evening.

Remember, this is a fundraiser, so a suggested donation of $25 per “family” is appreciated, “family being loosely defined as any group of adults with or without children, related or unrelated.

If you have other plans and can’t make it, you can still check out Aerie International through its website. Or, for $12, subscribe to the magazine by emailing a subscription request to

Here’s more information about the publication:

The students of Aerie are eligible for $100 prizes each year include the Patricia Goedicke Poetry Award, the James Welch Fiction Award, the Norman Maclean Nonfiction Award, the Rudy Autio Visual Arts Award, the Lee Nye Photography Award, the Richard Hugo Sense of Place Award, and the Chief Charlo Celebration of Culture Award.

Aerie International is the only magazine of its kind dedicated to high school students editing and publishing the work of their peers worldwide. Last year the student editors solicited and read more than 350 submissions from 13-19 year olds from England, Russia, Turkmenistan, Japan, Finland, Canada, and across the United States.

Since 1999, Big Sky High School’s two literary arts magazines have received or been nominated for the highest award rank in the National Council of Teacher’s of English Program to recognize excellence in sudent literary magazines seven times.

Last year both magazines received the highest award.

For still more information as well as other donation avenues, call Lorilee Evans-Lynn at Big Sky High School at 728-2401, or write to Aerie International, Big Sky High School, 3100 South Avenue W. Missoula, MT 59804.

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Tired, tired teens break world record for longest tennis match

Congratulations are pouring in for the Hellgate High School seniors who set a new Guinness World Record for playing the longest tennis match in recorded history: a bout that wrapped up Sunday after 60 hours, 59 minutes and 58 seconds.

Sam Angel

Sam Angel

Katie Martens

Katie Martens

Closing in on the final hours of the match, 18-year-old Sam Angel was reportedly delirious with exhaustion: “”I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m tired, I’m really tired, I’m tired,” he said.

His fatigue – and that of singles partner Katie Martens – was all for a very good cause. The two raised more than $7,000 for Watson Children’s Shelter, which provides emergency shelter for children who have experienced family trauma.

Now that’s what I call a love game! Congratulations, Sam and Katie.

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Youth Service Expedition program pays teens for volunteering

I just read the announcement that the Montana Conservation Corps is accepting applications from teens ages 15-17 to join its Youth Service Expedition program.

The program puts these kids to work in teams that tackle outdoor projects four four weeks over the summer. It “combines outdoor adventure, education, job skills training and fun!” according to the Governor’s Office of Community Service.

What’s more, each teen will get a $200 Service Award for participating. Which begs the question: Is it still considered volunteering if it results in payment? Even a payment as tiny as $200 for four weeks of work?

Montana Conservation Corps President and CEO Jono Kinney has this to say about the program: “The summer Youth Service Expeditions are a terrific opportunity for young Montanans to get outside and reconnect with values that make Montana great – values like hard work for quality results, service to community, stewardship of our public lands, and working together in common purpose.

“I see a lot of big smiles when these kids return from a month with the corps. They know they’ve done something great,” he added.

Here are more details:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Congressional Art Competition open to Montana high schoolers

In a press release from Montana’s congressman, Denny Rehberg, high school students across the state are urged to submit original artwork for the annual Congressional Art Competition.

Winning entries will be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for a year alongside the winning artworks from other congressional district. One winner will be chosen from each district, which in Montana’s case encompasses the entire state.

In the release, Rehberg described the competition as “a great way for Montana’s young artists to be recognized and rewarded for their talents,” adding, “I believe Montana’s rural settings and friendly people lend itself to some of the warmest and most inspired entries in the art competition, and each year I look forward to viewing the artwork and showing my colleagues Montana’s talent.”

The first runner-up from Montana will be displayed in Rehberg’s D.C. office. A grand prize winner will also be selected to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception in D.C. this June.

Submissions are due by April 22. Rules, instructions and other entry information can be found on Rehberg’s U.S. House website.

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