The Newton County School System is joining with several partners to apply for the SafeSchools/Healthy Students grant provided by the Safe and Drug Free Schools Office, a division of the U. S. Department of Education. School officials, including Deena Sams,School/Parent/Community Collaboration Coordinator, and Kathy Garber, NCSS GrantsCoordinator, are working with representatives from the Newton County CommunityPartnership, the Juvenile Courts and Juvenile Justice Department, Gwinnett/Rockdale/Newton Mental Health, KidsNet and local law enforcement to develop a plan aimed at reducing risky behaviors among today’s youth. The program is being designed to strengthen community collaboration in addressing such issues as dropout rates, youth violence, juvenile crime, substance abuse, and student emotional and behavioral problems. The grant proposal includes five elements which must be addressed in order to be considered: 1) Safe school environments and violence prevention activities, 2) Alcohol and other drug prevention activities, 3) Student behavioral, social and emotional supports, 4) Mental health services, and 5) Early childhood social and emotional learning programs. The school system and its partners are seeking additional funding for a variety of new research-based programs, as well as for the expansion of several existing programs. The Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant is highly competitive. Last year there were 380 applications nationwide, with approximately 65 school districts receiving project funding. This year with budget cuts at every level of government, the grant program is even more competitive, and the Department of Education expects to grant only 28 awards.Accredited private schools and providers of Pre?K programs in Newton County are invited to become a part of the partnership and participate in the programs that will be provided if the grant is awarded. For further information about becoming a partner, you may contact DeenaSams or Kathy Garber at the Newton County School System (770) 787?1330. Time is of the essence as the grant application must be submitted to the U. S. Department of Education by the March 4 deadline.