Director hopes community steps up to fill the gap

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

It’s no secret that federal and state funding for education – and educational programs – is becoming scarce.

That is the reason Christina Weigler, who heads the Partners2 program at Burlington High School, is starting to look beyond government funding for her program.

“About 40 percent of our funding is federal and state funding,” Weigler said. “Our hope is to cut that in half for this coming school year … and to be free of state and federal grants by 2013.”

Partners2 is a non-profit agency in partnership with the Burlington Area School District that helps students make healthy decisions – primarily in preventing use of drugs and alcohol.

The group has about 90 students involved in the program – with 30 freshmen signing up this year. The program has grown steadily in numbers since starting seven years ago, and Weigler sees the impact in the community.

“I think the impact that Partners2 has in the community, especially with teens and their families, has been extremely positive,” Weigler said. “We have seen a steady increase in students joining the program.

Weigler also said it is clear the program is working, because there hasn’t been a major death involving teenagers and drugs or alcohol.

“I think there’s a lot of good reasons that we haven’t had the type of deaths that we may have seen 10 years ago,” Weigler added.

The group goes into local schools to educate about drugs and alcohol, as well as talking to local service groups. The club also boasts a website to inform anyone who needs information – partners2.basd.k12.wi.us.

But in order to keep the program running, Weigler said the community has to come up with the funds to sustain an annual budget of about $30,000. According to her estimates, about $12,000 currently comes from federal and state aid.

She explains that the group is starting to ask service and civic groups to donate, in addition to soliciting private donations.

“I have felt over the years that having that funding support is vital to the literal ‘buy-in’ the community has to support our programming and the teens who benefit,” Weigler said. She said that the programs help show that substance abuse in the community “will not be tolerated.”

“In doing this, it will reduce the costs to treat teenagers and individuals after the abuse occurs than to prevent substance abuse in the first place,” she added.

For more information, contact Weigler at (262) 763-0200, ext. 2119.