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MPA Student Strives for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth

Hannah Ticoras
October 23, 2013

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When it comes to alcohol and drug use among children and young adults, one student wants to be there every step of the way: Jennifer Smolowitz.

Smolowitz -- a second year MPA student and Voinovich School senator of the Graduate Student Senate -- has worked with youth drug and alcohol prevention since she first finished college.

This year, Smolowitz is doing a graduate research study with Holly Raffle, Assistant Professor at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, working to implement AlcoholEdu for universities and colleges that either have a different program or don't have any under-age alcohol prevention program at all. AlcoholEdu is an online alcohol prevention program that many universities, including Ohio University, administer to freshman before they enter college. It is designed to educate freshmen about the dangers and effects of alcohol before they are exposed to it in social settings.

Smolowitz is working with colleges and universities such as Bowling Green State University, Lorain County Community College, and the University of Cincinnati to help introduction of the program run smoothly.  Most of the difficulties in fulfillment are due to funding issues, so Smolowitz is pairing up schools that already have the program, such as Ohio University, with schools that can't fund the program fully.

During her first year in the MPA program, Smolowitz interned at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. She helped to plan and implement a youth-led drug prevention rally, and worked as a liaison between the youth and adult organizing groups. Serving this intermediate position put Smolowitz in a unique place where she could function creatively with the kids planning the rally, but still organize with the adults.

Most of Smolowitz's responsibility with AlcoholEdu and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services was logistical with the end goal of a healthier and more educated adolescent populace. But Smolowitz hopes that after graduation she will be able to do work closer to the individual.

Before continuing her studies at the master of public administration program at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in August 2012, Smolowitz was an AmeriCorps volunteer with a drug and alcohol prevention program in Delaware that was run through the state's 4-H program.  As a youth educator, she traveled around the state to visit hundreds of youth between first and twelfth grades.

"I was always interested in working with youth," Smolowitz said. "The best thing I learned with the kids is the importance of talking with someone, instead of at them."

This fall, Smolowitz is also doing an independent study on youth mentoring in the hopes of finding an occupation that she feels passionate about.  She is attending the 2013 Health Educators Institute on October 23, 2013 to learn more about careers in her field. After graduation, Smolowitz plans to return to Delaware where she participated in AmeriCorps to work at a nonprofit organization.