Partnership moves forward with new director

November 17, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Susan Caperton has stepped up to the task of serving as project director for the community-focused Morgan County Partnership.

Caperton, who took over the position on Aug. 26, said she loves the job.

"There is such momentum in the county and such a strong sense of identity in the county," she said.

The Morgan County Partnership formed in 2006 and was led by Jacqueline Fischer until she resigned last July.

Caperton said the main focus is on drug and alcohol prevention, "and we are geared toward 40 developmental assets in order for kids to succeed, such as positive activities in the community, a strong source of belonging in the community and internal assets that include a strong self-esteem."

"The goal of the partnership is to work together as a community to identify the gaps, and to address these needs with prevention programs and to educate the community as a whole," Caperton said.


The partnership's office is at the Oasis Center on the Berkeley Springs High School grounds.

One of the first programs introduced was "Rachel's Challenge," which began last year at Berkeley Springs High and Warm Springs Middle schools. The program strengthens positive relationships by promoting small acts of kindness to reduce bullying and school violence.

A prevention education program, "Too Good for Drugs," began recently at Warm Springs Middle School. Nikki Cowles, a former day-care provider, is leading the classes, Caperton said.

Cowles said she took care of many of the students when they were young, so there is a connection between them already.

Megan Hauser, the Partnership's community educator, is working with Widmyer Elementary School Principal Daniel Reynolds to take advantage of the three 30-minute fire drill evacuations planned for the school year.

Widmyer is about one block from Berkeley Springs High School. Instead of 400 elementary school students standing outside their school during the fire drill, the students in kindergarten through second grade will walk to the high school and participate in three, 10-minute programs, Hauser said.

Hauser said the anti-tobacco group RAZE will talk about not smoking, the Rachel's Challenge group will perform a skit about the value of learning how to read and math teacher Pete Gordon will perform with his guitar.

"The kids in Rachel's Challenge groups are really excited about this. It creates a positive experience for both the high school and the elementary school students," Hauser said.

"Natural Helpers" is another program the partnership will be introducing soon, she said. Teachers and students who have a natural ability to help people will be asked to join this program.

Morgan County Probation Officers Sean Bryner and Danielle Robertson have been working with the partnership to establish Teen Court, which is to be available in January. The coordinator's office will be at the Oasis Center.

The volunteer program is for students in grades seven to 12 who have committed nonviolent crimes. They will have an opportunity to pay for their crimes without creating a criminal record.

Community members are offered training, too, Caperton said, through workshops to help understand youth. She said PASS (Providing Academic and Self-Esteem Support) volunteers asked for better ways to communicate with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) students, or difficult or aggressive parents.

The free training program is offered quarterly.

"Anyone who works with kids can receive training. Just contact the Morgan County Partnership," Caperton said.

Caperton worked as an attorney for a Martinsburg, W.Va., law firm before she and her husband, Gat Caperton, began raising their family. She began volunteering with the Morgan County Partnership as a PASS volunteer.

"There are many challenges facing our kids," Caperton said. "The best way to tackle these problems is to work together as a community."

About the Partnership

The premise of the partnership, which is made up of community organizations, the county commission, schools, law enforcement, representatives of the health sector and parks and recreation, is to engage the whole community to learn what contributes to drug abuse in a community.

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