Jennifer Gulko, principal at Freeport High School, and Raymond Grogan, Freeport Middle School principal, are working this month with Casco Bay CAN (Create Awareness Now) on ways to promote the health and well-being of youth during National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

Gulko and Grogan are among the high school and middle school principals from Regional School Unit 5, Yarmouth, Falmouth, School Administrative District 51 and SAD 15 who are working to help prevent and reduce substance abuse in their schools. They are promoting a campaign, called “Talk Early, Talk Often, and Keep Talking,” with letters to parents, encouraging them to talk with their children about the risks of drug or alcohol use.

Casco Bay Create CAN, based in New Gloucester, partners with adults who influence youth to prevent youth substance use.

Gulko stressed the importance of dispersing facts regarding the problem.

“At the high school, we are hoping to continuously inform students and parents about facts and statistics associated with substance abuse, as well as share tips about how parents can have conversations with their children about substance abuse prevention,” Gulko said in an email to the Tri-Town Weekly. “Casco Bay CAN continues to support us with information and resources to distribute to parents and students, and they present ‘Table Talks,’ which is a facilitated discussion on local trends in youth substance use, tips for talking with teens, and how to stay informed. We are hoping to host a ‘Table Talk’ at the high school in the next couple of months and we will distribute resources at our parent events throughout the year.”

Gulko said that Freeport High staff members are working directly with Casco Bay CAN to help the school stay connected to the organization.


“Our FHS guidance counselors, school nurse, school social worker and the administrative team will continue to work together to support students and parents in substance abuse prevention efforts,” she said. “Substance abuse prevention is a statewide effort and concern and I hope to see area principals and schools sharing ideas about how to tackle this difficult topic.”

Grogan said that Casco Bay CAN is a great resource.

“It is helpful because the earlier we can get to the kids the better,” he said. “We have our substance abuse curriculum as part of our health classes in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. In the past we have have done programs such as Sticker Shock and Red Ribbon Day, and other things to get the attention of students.”

Principals kicked off the sports season by offering educational materials and tips to parents during sports information nights, encouraging a healthy, safe and substance-free sports season. The letters were sent to parents in their Principal Notes, school websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts, blogs and other venues.

In the letters, it is stated that parents are the most influential factors in their preteen/teen’s decision-making. Youth who learn the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs or alcohol than those who do not, it says.

Also during the campaign, principals will distribute Casco Bay CAN’s “Tip of the Month,” with the campaign tips for parents included. To inform students about substance abuse prevention, the principals will encourage activities such as participation in Red Ribbon Week, which is a drug-awareness prevention campaign observed annually in October.

“Program director Beth Blakeman-Pohl is excited to see all middle and high school principals in the five school districts join together to support the campaign,” said Kaleigh Slooan, project coordinator for Casco Bay CAN.

For more information and tips, go to

Casco Bay CAN is working with local high school and middle school principals during National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

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