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Kendall native receives Congressional Gold Medal for service as Tuskegee Airman

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 November 2016 at 8:33 pm
Photo courtesy of Helen Unterborn: Wallace Higgins, a former Kendall resident, shared his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman during a talk with the Kendall Lions Club. This photo is from June 2015.

Photo courtesy of Helen Unterborn: Wallace Higgins, a former Kendall resident, shared his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman during a talk with the Kendall Lions Club. This photo is from June 2015.

GENESEO – Wallace Higgins, a Kendall native, was one of five Tuskegee Airmen from Western New York honored today with a Congressional Gold Medal.

The medals were presented during a Veterans Day ceremony at the National Warplane Museum.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States Congress. The medals were presented about 70 years after the Airmen completed their historic World War II mission.

“At a time in our history where African-Americans faced tremendous prejudice, the Tuskegee Airmen remained true to their convictions and answered the call of duty, serving our nation honorably,” said Congressman Chris Collins, who presented the medals. “These brave men undoubtedly laid the foundation for change, so future generations can serve in our armed forces, no matter their race or ethnicity. It was a true honor to join these men and their families on Veterans Day to recognize their service and the service of all of our veterans.”

Higgins grew up in Kendall. Born on November 11, 1925 on a small farm in Kendall, a son of Alice and Daniel Higgins.

During a presentation to the Kendall Lions Club last year, he talked about encountering racial segregation and discrimination for the first time after entering the service and training in Pre-Flight at the Tuskegee Institute. He also discussed his post-war education at NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He went on to become an Associate Professor at Alfred, retiring in 1985.

Higgins, who turned 91 today, has been a member of Alfred Lions Club for 50 years and spent decades in community service. In May last year he was inducted into the Veterans Hall of Fame in Albany.

As soon as he turned 18 years old, Higgins enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. Having already been attending Civil Air Patrol classes in Rochester during his senior year of high school, he already had interest in pursuing aviation.

After initially reporting to Fort Dix, New Jersey, Higgins was sent to Biloxi, Mississippi for basic training and aptitude testing. As a result of his skin color and proficiencies, Wally was selected to be part of the Tuskegee Airmen experiment in Alabama, where he trained in Pre-Flight and Primary Flight training, including solo runs in the P-17 Stearman.

Following 11 months at Tuskegee, a downturn in the war in Europe resulted in less pilot training and Higgins was transferred to the 1909th Engineers Aviation Battalion. A sergeant in charge of an all-black, 30-man platoon, Mr. Higgins served in Saipan and Okinawa building roads, airfields and ammunition storage buildings.

On March 17, 1947 “Wally” was Honorably Discharged as a Staff Sergeant with Squadron F, 3505th Army Air Force. For his service, Higgins earned the WW-II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, and New York State Medal for Merit. He was also recently presented with a Congressional Gold Medal due to his Civil Air Patrol involvement during the war.

Upon returning from the war, Higgins was accepted to the College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramic design in 1952. While a student there, he met and married Norma Miller about 65 years ago and never left Alfred. They raised four children.

In 2015, Higgins was recognized by Congressman Tom Reed with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his service. When Wallace heard that his fellow Airmen were identified, he wanted to attend this program today to participate in the Veterans Day ceremony.

Other Tuskegee Airmen honored today include Herbert Thorpe, a Brooklyn native, who earned B-25 Pilot’s Wings in October 1945 at Tuskegee. He was one the first black pilots in United States history.

The families of three other Tuskegee Airmen accepted the medals on behalf of the late Richard Thorpe who died in 1945 (His brother Herbert Thorpe accepted the medal on his behalf today), Robert M. Johnson (killed in action on Dec. 5, 1944) and Leland H. Pennington of Rochester who died on April 21, 1945 on a flight mission.

“We are excited to be a part of this significant event, especially on Veterans Day,” said Austin Wadsworth, President of the National Warplane Museum. “Honoring these Tuskegee Airmen today is just one of the ways we are able to continue our mission—to recognize all United States military personnel for their selfless service and sacrifice. I’d also like to thank Congressman Collins for joining us today to present these well-deserved medals to the Airmen and their families.”

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Partyka will make push to grow market for popular pumpkin seeds

Photos by Tom Rivers: Steve and Scott Partyka, and their father Jeff are looking to expand the customer base for their dry roasted pumpkin seeds.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2016 at 4:46 pm

KENDALL – It started as a bit of an experiment. Jeff Partyka was at a presentation by Cornell University more than a decade ago and a researcher talked about pumpkins that produced hull-less seeds (those without a shell).

Partyka was guardedly intrigued. The owner of a fruit and vegetable farm with a market on Countyline Road said farms need to diversify, and look for many sources of revenue. A drought could hit like this year or prices could crash, imperiling a farm if it relies too much on one crop.

Partyka and his sons, Steve and Scott, planted some of the pumpkins. The seeds, after they were dry roasted, were popular with customers. The seeds are a healthy snack, high in iron and low in cholesterol.

“This is something that we have been playing around with for a while,” Partyka said today at the farm in Kendall. “It’s something different. It’s a niche that not a lot of other people are doing.”

The pumpkin seeds have jumped in popularity in the last three years, with Partyka selling them at Wegmans, and many other farm markets and natural food stores in the region.

Partyka sells the seeds, which are grown without shells, at the Partyka Farm Market, 1420 County Line Rd., Kendall. The seeds are available at Wegmans, and many other farm markets and natural food stores in the region.

Partyka sells the seeds, which are grown without shells, at the Partyka Farm Market, 1420 County Line Rd., Kendall. The seeds are available at Wegmans, and many other farm markets and natural food stores in the region.

The Partykas have equipment that pulls the pumpkins apart in the field and extracts the seeds, which are then washed, dried and roasted.

The Partykas see a bigger market for the product and the federal government announced on Thursday the farm was approved for a grant to help with marketing.

U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer announced a $170,465 matching grant for Partyka Farms. It was one of 14 grants, totaling $2,279,655, allocated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Value-Added Producer Grant program. The money goes to help farmers create new products and improve their marketing strategy to raise brand awareness and increase sales.

“Ensuring that agriculture is able to flourish – and the unique needs of New York agriculture are considered in federal programs – has always been a top priority of mine,” Schumer said in a news release. “This direct USDA assistance will allow these businesses in New York State to generate increased economic revenue by bringing new products to market and expanding their operations. Helping our local companies grow their business will be a win-win for our agriculture industry, New York consumers, and the entire regional economies.”

The Partykas have to match the grant. They are looking at developing new bags for the pumpkin seeds and expanding their marketing efforts.

“We need our farmers and local producers to thrive if we’re going to have a strong and growing economy in New York,” said Gillibrand, the first NY senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “This investment will help our producers receive the resources needed to bring their products to market and continue to help drive economic growth across the state.”

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Kendall puts finishing touches on capital project at Jr./Sr. High School

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2016 at 1:40 pm


Photos by Tom Rivers

KENDALL – The Kendall Jr./Sr. High School is nearing the completion of a major transformation. Contractors recently added large lettering on the front of the building and on Tuesday a large Kendall “K” was put inside the main entrance of the school.

The building looks far different, and, in my opinion, much improved from before.


This file photo shows how the school looked before a $25 million capital project, which included many improvements to the elementary school as well.


Carol D’Agostino is pictured inside the main entrance. She likes the new “K” which she said promotes pride in the school.

“It adds a lot of personality to this space,” she said. “The kids feels a sense of ownership with the school.”


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26 community members give Kendall students mock job interviews

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2016 at 1:10 pm


Photos by Tom Rivers

KENDALL – Hunter Winkley, a senior at Kendall, is interviewed by Tony Manno, owner of A & M Automotive and Transmission on Route 31 in Fancher. Manno was one of 26 community members who volunteered to interview seniors today during the annual interview day to help prep seniors for the job market.


Chad Miller, a senior interested in a career in law enforcement, is interviewed by Deputy Jeff Cole, an Orleans County deputy and a Kendall graduate.

Tom Rivers, Orleans Hub editor, interviewed one of the students, Richard Wolf, who is interested in a career in automotive journalism.

Book honors sacrifice of Civil War soldier buried at Kendall cemetery

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 1 November 2016 at 1:15 pm
Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Morton Union Cemetery is pictured in Kendall. John Farnharm is buried under the mountain ash tree at the center.

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Morton Union Cemetery is pictured in Kendall. John Farnharm is buried under the mountain ash tree at the center.

KENDALL – A recently published book by Brockport resident Bill Andrews ensures that a Civil War soldier buried at the Morton Union Cemetery in Kendall will never be forgotten.

Andrews transcribed six detailed diaries and extensive letters for the book, The Life of a Union Army Sharpshooter: The Diaries and Letters of John T. Farnham, which tell about Farnham’s experiences as a Union sharpshooter as well as his first-person accounts of battles, campaigns, life in camp, the home front and what he experienced emotionally and psychologically during the war.

“It is an in-depth portrait of this young man,” says Andrews, who is a Village of Brockport historian emeritus, professor emeritus of The College at Brockport, and currently serves as deputy mayor on the Brockport Village Board of Trustees.

Farnham lived in Brockport, just a few houses down the street from where Andrews now lives, and worked in the newspaper industry. He was shop foreman at the Brockport Republic before serving in the war. Farnham enlisted in 1862 at age 20, and was a voracious reader, subscribing to newspapers and magazines and reading books, as well as writing on a nearly daily basis both before, during and after the war.

This close-up picture shows Farnham’s gravestone at the Morton Union Cemetery.

This close-up picture shows Farnham’s gravestone at the Morton Union Cemetery.

“The amazing thing is that he wrote every day,” Andrews says. “Over 850 days, there are 848 entries. He wrote after battles, long marches, when he was hospitalized, he never failed.”

Andrews first learned about Farnham while researching another one of his books on Brockport history. He found nearly 200 letters written by local soldiers which were published in the Brockport Republic during the Civil War. Andrews says he planned a book based solely on the letters, but it didn’t work out the way he had hoped.

He Googled Farnham’s name and discovered the existence of the diaries, five of which were in the collection of the Witchita State University library. The sixth had been sold at auction for $23,900 due to the fact it was sold along with the blood-stained cuff of the shirt President Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated.

Farnham, an avid supporter of Lincoln, had acquired the cuff through a group of friends and fellow Lincoln supporters.

With much persistence, Andrews tracked down the diary’s owner, who agreed to send him a copy of the book for transcription.

Farnham was, by all accounts, a remarkable young man. He was very intelligent and open-minded and had many friends. He served in the 1st New York Sharpshooters and also worked as a clerk at the headquarters of the Iron Brigade and at the War Department in Washington, D.C.

Poor health resulted in him spending more than 100 days ill or in the hospital, but even there, Farnham worked as a library clerk and errand boy and nursed other patients. He was politically active, enjoyed attending concerts, plays and other events, and made friends with escaped slaves, teaching them to read and write and building them a school.

Following the war, Farnham returned to Brockport and continued working in the newspaper industry there as well as in Rochester and Elmira.

He died of tuberculosis only four years after the war while living in Hamlin. Farnham was 27 years old when he died and was buried in the Morton Union Cemetery in Kendall.

The Life of a Union Sharpshoooter: The Diaries and Letters of John T. Farnham is published by Casemate Publishers and is available locally at the Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport. The book includes photos, illustrations and explanatory notes by Andrews. 

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Kendall BOE members praised for volunteer service

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 20 October 2016 at 9:37 am

Some water fountains, classroom sinks test too high for lead

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: Pictured include, from left, in front: Kendall Elementary Principal Sharon Smith, Board of Education Vice President Charles Patt, Board of Education member Lisa Levett, Board of Education President Nadine Hanlon, Board of Education member Martin Goodenbery and Jr./Sr. High School Principal Carol D'Agostino. Next week is Board of Education Week and October is National Principals Month. (BOE member Chaley Swift is missing from photo.)

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: Pictured include, from left, in front: Kendall Elementary Principal Sharon Smith, Board of Education Vice President Charles Patt, Board of Education member Lisa Levett, Board of Education President Nadine Hanlon, Board of Education member Martin Goodenbery and Jr./Sr. High School Principal Carol D’Agostino. Next week is Board of Education Week and October is National Principals Month. (BOE member Chaley Swift is missing from photo.)

KENDALL – Members of the Kendall Central School Board of Education and Elementary and Jr./Sr. High School principals were recognized during Wednesday evening’s regular meeting of the school board.

Superintendent Julie Christensen read proclamations declaring Oct. 24-28 Board of Education Week and October National Principals Month. Christensen presented BOE members with coupon books provided by the Kendall PTSA.

“We appreciate all your work,” she told board members. “We know we could not do the work without you.”

In her report, Jr./Sr. High School Principal Carol D’Agostino said recent assemblies featuring the Sweethearts and Heroes anti-bullying program were very successful. She said the event has led the school to make new efforts to prevent bullying behavior.

Every Friday video clips are shown about bullying and students receive a daily quote about, “how we should treat each other,” D’Agostino said.

She explained the school would be forming a “Mosaic Club” where students can meet to discuss and provide support to each other regarding issues such as domestic violence or sexual identity. D’Agostino said the club would be a “safe place for kids to come together to support each other and educate our school.”

Christensen reported that there are currently 388 students in the elementary school and 297 in the Jr./Sr. High School for a total of 685 students in the district, down from 718 a year ago. Elementary Principal Sharon Smith said her school had just registered five new students on Wednesday.

Christensen also reported on results from the second round of water tests for Kendall Schools.  Initial tests showed lead levels above acceptable levels in newly renovated areas, but Christensen said those systems were flushed and now only one classroom sink in the Jr./Sr. Science wing retested above acceptable levels. All others tested well below the acceptable threshold. The affected sink will be posted as unacceptable for drinking, but is safe for hand washing, she said.

In the Kendall Elementary School, six outlets located in low-use classrooms/restrooms tested above the acceptable threshold for lead. Christensen said of those six, four are located in limited-use office areas. She said signs in those areas indicate sinks should only be used for hand washing and three affected water fountains will be shut off until they are replaced.

Finally, Board of Education members approved the agreement with Holley Central School to combine wrestling teams.

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Kendall accepts donation for cemeteries

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 19 October 2016 at 9:37 am

‘Kendall’s Finest’ display planned for Town Hall

File photo by Tom Rivers: This chapel at Beechwood Cemetery was built in 1898 with Medina sandstone. This photo was taken in the fall of 2015.

File photo by Tom Rivers: This chapel at Beechwood Cemetery was built in 1898 with Medina sandstone. This photo was taken in the fall of 2015.

KENDALL – A donation by Partyka Farms will help the Town of Kendall improve its cemeteries.

Town Board members Tuesday evening passed a resolution which makes budget adjustments to accommodate the $350 donation which was raised from proceeds of dinners served by Partyka’s during Kendall Homegrown Days. The resolution splits the donation evenly between Greenwood and Beechwood cemeteries, with $175 allotted to each.

Town Council members discussed potential improvements projects with Highway Superintendent Warren Kruger. Kruger suggested sealing or painting the building at Greenwood Cemetery which is made of concrete blocks, and purchasing doors for the “chapel” building at Beechwood Cemetery.

Supervisor Tony Cammarata said the doors or wrought iron gates, would need to be durable and Town Clerk Amy Richardson said she would provide council members with input provided to the town by retired Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin regarding what materials would maintain architectural period integrity.

Councilperson Wayne Martin, Jr. reported on the progress of the “Kendall’s Finest” project. The town is working on a display of photos of current active duty military personnel from Kendall to be placed on a wall in the meeting room at the Town Hall. A wooden plaque with the words “Kendall’s Finest” will be stained, Martin said, and all branches of the military will be represented.

The town currently has several photos but Martin is hoping for more. “I know there are a lot of (local) young men and women in the service,” he said.

Council members discussed holding a special ceremony prior to Veterans Day in November to dedicate the wall, inviting the families of military personnel who are pictured.

“It is important to honor these men and women who sacrifice for us everyday,” Cammarata said.

Councilperson Barb Flow reported on Clothing Closet dates at the Concordia Lutheran Church. Children’s clothing for infants through age 18 will be available for free on select Tuesdays and Saturdays at the church located at 1769 Kendall Rd.

The dates and times are: Oct. 29, 9 a.m. to noon; Nov. 8, 6:30 to 8 p.m.; Nov. 19, 9 a.m. to noon; Dec. 6, 6:30 to 8 p.m.; and Dec. 17, 9 a.m. to noon.

Donations of children’s clothing is also accepted during those times. To make other arrangements call 585-734-3239.

Councilperson Flow also said The Kendall Community Band will be performing Nov. 22 at the Kendall Jr./Sr. High School Auditorium to benefit the Kendall Food Cupboard.  Those attending are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to support the Food Cupboard. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and will include a mix of patriotic songs, show tunes and big band music.

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Forum at Kendall welcomes input from residents to grow community

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Those attending a forum about the Kendall community broke into focused task groups to brainstorm ideas in the Jr./Sr. High School cafeteria. About 50 people attended the forum.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 6 October 2016 at 10:27 am

KENDALL – Members of the Kendall community want to get the word out that Kendall is a “great place to live and grow,” and residents as well as town, school district and county officials gathered at Kendall Jr./Sr. High School Wednesday evening to brainstorm ways to promote the community as a place to settle down and raise family.

100616_kendallnhSchool Board President Nadine Hanlon called the gathering, “a positive think tank” to develop ways to “bring people to the community.”

The evening began with county, town and school district officials enumerating resources, initiatives and benefits Kendall already has.

County Legislator Donald Allport discussed the benefits available at the county level including the shared Orleans/Genesee County Health Department, $8 million in infrastructure investments, the recycling/waste program and Lake Ontario State Parkway repaving.

Town Supervisor Tony Cammarata noted the town will continue to work on establishing new water districts, adding a new district each year. He discussed the town’s Innovation Committee which acts as a “market antenna” for the Town Board.

The Committee is currently addressing such issues as sidewalks and storm drains, Cammarata said.

“If you don’t create value, nobody’s going to come here,” Cammarata said. “We need to find out what is special about Kendall, have a residential focus, anticipate needs and develop a strategy. We need to imagine what it could be like and then challenge the status quo.”

Kendall Town Supervisor Tony Cammarata discusses current town initiatives during the community forum.

Kendall Town Supervisor Tony Cammarata discusses current town initiatives during the community forum.

Kendall School Superintendent Julie Christensen listed current community organizations and seasonal highlights such as Homegrown Days and the Scarecrow Festival.

“We have so many great things going on,” Christensen said.

She discussed school data points including the 30 percent decrease in the school’s enrollment over the past ten years. Student performance is above state average on multiple measures. Christensen also said there are numerous school-community connections including the Lions Club and Leos, partnership with town activities, and school internships/shadow experience/senior interviews.

“There are a lot of school-community connections,” Christensen said. “That’s what makes us special here in Kendall.”

Those attending broke into six task groups – public relations/advertising, advocacy, recruitment, beautification enhancement, and community events – to come up with goals and strategies, as well as ways to achieve them.

Ideas formulated included a brochure for prospective residents, working with realtors to determine what homebuyers are looking for in a community, opening up public access to Lake Ontario, a Christmas decorating contest, a winter festival, historical museum, walking and hiking trails (perhaps linking the town with the Erie Canal) and public water throughout the town.

Christensen asked the groups to provide her with lists of their ideas.  She said she will be working closely with Supervisor Cammarata and another meeting will be planned sometime early next year.

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County celebrates reopening of Carton Road Bridge in Kendall

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 October 2016 at 4:18 pm


Provided photo

KENDALL – Orleans County officials were joined by Kendall community leaders with a ribbon-cutting celebration last Wednesday for the Carton Road Birdge in Kendall.

Pictured, include, from left: John Papponetti, engineer with LaBella Associates; John DeFilipps, Orleans County legislator; Glen Spellan, chairman, Kendall Innovations Committee; Ken DeRoller, Orleans County legislator; Becky and Rod Hughson, Carton Road residents; Bill Eick, Orleans County legislator and chairman of the Highway Committee; Warren Kruger, Kendall highway superintendent; Bruce Newell, Kendall town councilman; Jerry Gray, Orleans County highway superintendent; Julie Christensen, Kendall Central School superintendent; Becky Charland, executive director of Orleans County Chamber of Commerce; and Chris Bayer, structural engineer with LaBella Associates.

County officials said the bridge project was ahead of schedule and under budget. Crane-Hogan Structural Systems in Spencerport was the main contractor for $793,729. The new bridge replaces one from 1959. The project is part of an $8 million bond the county took out in 2014 for a series of infrastructure projects over three years.

Contractors are also close to finishing a bridge over Fish Creek on East Scott Road in Ridgeway. Union Concrete and Construction Corporation in West Seneca submitted the low bid for that project at $724,346. The new bridge will replace one from 1936.

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Kendall students report drop in use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs

Posted 3 October 2016 at 12:21 pm

Press Release, Kendall Central School

KENDALL – Kendall students in grades 7-12 completed the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNA) in 2015 for the Orleans County Drug Free Communities Coalition.

Every two years, the survey collects data on youth substance use, developmental risk and protective factors over time. A large section of the survey focuses on students’ use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and non-prescribed prescription drugs.

Of the 267 Kendall students who participated in the survey, 27 percent responded that they had used any of these substances in the last 30 days. This is the lowest rate of usage since Kendall began taking the survey in 2007. Kendall students have the lowest rate of substance use in Orleans County, according to the survey.

Students were also asked if they perceived themselves at risk of drinking regularly, smoking cigarettes or marijuana and taking non-prescription drugs. Overall responses showed a slight increase since the 2013 survey, but there was a 32 percent decrease in the students’ risk of smoking marijuana since 2007.

The survey questioned students on their perception of their parent’s disapproval if they used any of the four substances. Over 93 percent of students responded in each substance category that their parents would disapprove of them using, which has been one of the highest rates recorded.

This result shows a strong influence on the decrease in substance abuse among Kendall students. This data shows that parents are sending the message that these are not acceptable behaviors and students are receiving the message, even if they aren’t always acting on it. Kendall’s responses to this question rank higher than any of the other schools surveyed in Orleans County.

Students were also asked how high they perceived their peers’ disapproval if they regularly used any of the four substances. There was an overall increase in peer disapproval since 2013. This data demonstrates that peer disapproval also plays a part in discouraging students from adopting these risky behaviors.

Students were also asked about use of tobacco products in all forms, including e-cigarettes. The majority of Kendall students have not even tried them once and are living in non-smoking households. However, students perceive the risk of using e-cigarettes is low, which is something that needs to be monitored going forward.

The PNA Survey is designed to measure the need for preventative services among youth in the areas of substance abuse, delinquency, antisocial behavior and violence. The questions ask youth about the factors that place them at risk for substance use and other risky behaviors, along with the factors that offer them protection from these behaviors.

Students are questioned about their use of the four substances and participation in various antisocial behaviors. The survey is funded by Orleans County Drug Free Communities Coalition, and four of the five school districts in Orleans County participate. Students are surveyed in the fall during the school day.

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