BURRILLVILLE – A longtime school counselor and a dedicated student liaison were recognized by the Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition for their contributions to addiction prevention in town this week.
Janet McClenden and Mackenzie Raimond were given awards by BPAC at the group’s monthly meeting at the Burrillville Middle School.
McClenden, who has served as a student assistance counselor at Burrillville High School for 31 years, was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. The role focuses on on prevention and early intervention efforts with students and parents, and for years, McClenden has organized events like the annual Pre-Prom dinner, with speakers that would help to facilitate conversations.
She is retiring this year.
“It’s been a pretty blessed 31 years,” McClenden told community members gathered at the meeting. “I stayed because I liked it. It’s time for somebody younger and smart to get in there and get it done.”
“She has a great passion for what she does,” noted Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Monica Blanchette. “She’ll be missed.”
Raimond has been involved in the movement against substance abuse not just locally, but nationally, and was one of just five students from across the country chosen last year to serve on the leadership council of Students Against Destructive Decisions. She’s participated at Burrillville High School in Students Taking Actions Responsibly and Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse, and recently participated in the Recover Coach Academy.
She graduated for BHS last week, which means she can no longer serve as BPAC’s youth representative.
“Her resume is already filled with more amazing work than most adults that I know,” said Blanchette.
First formed in 2013 as a collaboration between local police and school officials in reaction the opioid epidemic, BPAC brings together representatives from varying sectors in the community – from healthcare and education, to government and rescue services – with the common goal of addressing the factors that lead to substance abuse and addiction.
The effort got a boost last year with the hiring of Blanchette and Michelle Harter, coordinator for the Burrillville Addiction Assistance Program. The pair joined some three dozen participants in an informal discussion Wednesday night.
Among topics discussed was a Drug Free Communities Grant that could bring in some $125,000 in prevention funding annually for the next five years, and the planning of “sober events,” fun opportunities to socialize for those in recovery.
“Every time someone decides to get involved, the more the word spreads,” noted Harter.
Supt. Michael Sollitto has been among several educators in attendance since he replaced Frank Pallotta in the role last year.
“It really is a great community effort that I got to see first hand that’s not typical of other communities,” Sollitto said.
Col. Stephen Lynch thanked the award recipients, noting of Raimond, “She’s the first student who became really involved in BPAC. If the next student is has half the quality that Mackenzie does, we will have a great student.”
To McLinden, Lynch added, “I know you’re retiring, but you don’t have to retire from BPAC. I thank you for what you bring to this community. You have dramatically impacted lives.”
Editor’s note: Publisher Sandy Seoane of NRI NOW has joined BPAC as a media representative.