Letter from the editor

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Jane Hawes

Dear Columbus Parents,

The August Back-to-School issue is always a monumental undertaking and every year it feels as if we have more story ideas than we have room to publish them. This year was no different, but I also think we struck a really nice balance of interests and information.

My two favorite stories to work on were the ones about school lunches and high-risk teen behavior. The former involved working with folks from the Ohio Department of Education. The menu-planning standards that schools are now trying to hold themselves to are quite daunting. If you've ever tried to analyze what you feed your family and really get into the mathematical minutiae of it, it's a very hard task. I think most of us go by intuition, seeking a balance of calories, carbs, proteins, fats and whatever else is on those nutritional guidelines, and, oh yes, fits our budgets.

Well, multiply that by thousands of school kids and you get some sense of how difficult it is to plan school menus in a school or district. Oh, and one more thing, try to make sure it tastes good enough to please those finicky palates. I was impressed with what local schools are doing and I also encourage everyone to download the free cookbook from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that we talk about in the story (available at www.fns.usda.gov/tn/recipes-healthy-kids-cookbook-homes). Very tasty (and healthy) stuff in there.

The high-risk teen behavior story happened because of a dad who works for my company and has bravely used his family's personal tragedy as a catalyst for change. Dom Tiberi, the well-known and popular sports anchor at WBNS-10TV (also part of the Dispatch media group), lost his daughter Maria last fall to a distracted-driving crash. By spring, he was visiting local high schools, hoping to warn teens about this growing problem, and I got to watch one of those presentations.

It was powerful but, being a mother with two kids in the age group he's trying to reach, I found myself watching the students in the audience just as much as I did Dom. I wanted to see if anything he was saying was sinking in. It sure looked as if it was. But because of that concern I felt, I decided to focus the article on not just educating people about the risks that teens face every day, but also on the psychology and neurobiology of teens. What makes them do stupid stuff in the first place and, most importantly, is there anything that we as parents can truly do about it?

The insights I gleaned from Dom and Wayne Campbell, another local dad who has turned his family's experience with drug addiction into an agent for change, and from Dr. Fareeda Haamid, an adolescent-medicine physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital, were not just fascinating but also encouraging. As Dr. Haamid said, "Adolescence is not a disease."

So, once again, we bring you a packed August issue. Hopefully, you'll find lots of relevant, useful and hopeful information in it!