Addiction recovery speakers visit Coulee Region schools ahead of community event Wednesday

LA CROSSE, Wi. (WEAU)– Rise Together, a non-profit organization, has empowered and educated more than 200,000 students in Wisconsin since 2013.

They talk about addiction, something that impacts more than 40 million Americans, according to the La Crosse County Prevention Network.

This week, Rise Together is visiting four area schools to speak about addiction with youth.

“When we started working with young people we really saw ourselves in them,” said Anthony Alvarado, Rise Together co-founder, and president. “We thought that if we got ahead of some of these challenges that we have in the community, that we would be able to prevent addiction and promote positive mental health in a more effective way.”

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Rise Together has a team of national speakers, including some who have spoken on the TEDx stage, authors, and advocates.

For the team at Rise Together, they say mental health and addiction is something that hits close to home and now they’re working to start a conversation.

“I think the power of story is just profound,” Alvarado said. “So, when we educate through storytelling, we build a relationship– that’s one of the first key points to building stronger connections.”

Those connections aren’t just made with students, but also adults and parents.

“I think hearing people’s stories of the struggles that they went through, I think it helps adults with their children to see some of the signs,” said Rita VonHaden with La Crosse County Prevention Network.

The co-founder of Rise Together says it always impacts him hearing from others how they’ve also been affected by addiction.

“It’s those that are already being impacted by addiction at a young age,” Alvardo said. “It’s those that have unfortunately lost loved ones and family members due to drug overdose.”

The county hopes that local parents can learn from the experiences of the Rise Together team.

“The big message that they give to adults is don’t condemn [the youth]– ask questions, have a good conversation,” VonHaden said.

Rise Together will be speaking Wednesday, January 29th at a free community event held at Stoney Creek in Onalaska. All are invited.

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