I easily spotted Carolyn Bernhard’s mass of gray curls on the TV monitor at my gym early last month. She and other volunteers from Prevention WINS were making an appearance on “New Day,” a Seattle daytime talk show on KING-5 TV. (Conversely, Carolyn wanted to know why I was watching daytime TV, but that’s my peripatetic freelancing life!)
Prevention WINS (Works in Seattle) was started about six years ago as the Northeast Seattle Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking. The Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery offered funding to 12 high schools, two in North Seattle, because of underage drinking rates higher than the state average. At the time, Carolyn’s youngest daughter was a 6th grader at Eckstein Middle School, where the group met and focused some of its early efforts. Funds now come from a federal Drug Free Communities grant.
“I have been involved since its very first meeting,” says Carolyn, who served as co-chair for three years. Having noticed a culture of drinking “when my older daughter was in high school,” she says, she hoped “to change that culture so kids could grow up safer, smarter.”
Many parents “don’t think it’s that bad,” but the coalition stresses that “the longer…before a kid drinks, the healthier they are going to be.” Research clearly shows alcohol negatively affects brain function and development in young people.
Additionally, Carolyn notes, teens “don’t always make the best decisions,” even when sober. Risks are even higher for girls, who don’t process alcohol as well as males, and intoxicated girls are at more risk of assault, Carolyn says.
School surveys show decreasing drinking and drug use at Nathan Hale and Roosevelt High Schools in North Seattle. Carolyn hopes Prevention WINS has had an impact, although, she cautions, “I can’t prove it.”
The organization partners with Children’s Hospital to offer life-skills training for middle schoolers and parenting classes for adults, “about setting boundaries…learning to be a better parent.” They’ve also held programs at neighborhood elementary schools.
Carolyn, who grew up on Mercer Island and attended Herzl-Ner Tamid, now belongs to Congregation Beth Shalom with her husband Dan. She enjoys the gym, reading and traveling, and is an active drama booster at Roosevelt.
The coalition includes marijuana use among its concerns. It’s “just as much of a problem as drinking these days,” she says, and easier to obtain than alcohol.
“The earlier you start” drinking or taking drugs the more likely you are to have substance abuse problems, says Carolyn. “That’s a fact.”
There’s more information at
Inga Manskopf, the coalition’s staff organizer, tells us that Carolyn’s participation has been a strong contribution to the success of Prevention Wins.
• • •
Ben Starsky works with teens in two different roles.
Ben Starsky got to Seattle in 2009 to begin a doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Washington. But the veteran of many years of JCC work in Pittsburgh, where he grew up on Squirrel Hill, missed working with kids, so he got a job at our own Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island.
“I wondered what I could do to get re-engaged with the Jewish community,” he recalls. He ended up directing the summer camp program the last two summers.
In August 2011, he learned of “a new hybrid position,” that combined advising and managing the BBYO youth organization program already on site, and being the teen coordinator for the J.
He got the job and now “I wear two hats,” he says, although some programs overlap.
With training in education policy, leadership and human development (BA, Arizona State and M.Ed., Temple) he likes to “help out with all kinds of different things,” he says. “I try to be a generally involved guy.”
Also on his plate is J-Serve, the national day of service for Jewish teens coming up on April 29.
A resident of North Seattle, he’d “like to see more [youth] programming directed at the North Seattle community,” particularly for the 8 to 12 set. “I want to make sure there are programs for them…when they become teens,” he says.
Ben continues to work toward his doctorate. “I have completed my coursework and now I’m studying for comprehensive exams,” he says.
A lover of all things technological, he calls himself “a huge dork” and says much of his free time is spent thinking about which gadgets he covets.
As an avid reader, these days he’s mostly reading scholarly tomes, but “the most recent book I read was ‘The Hunger Games,’” the much-talked-about popular young people’s novel that’s now a movie.
“It’s good for me to keep up” with what the kids are reading, he says.