Someone You Should Know: Sue Nowak - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Someone You Should Know: Sue Nowak


  By Pam Warnke - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

WAUSAU(WAOW) -- Sue Nowak has the ability to walk into a room and talk about some very taboo topics. And, she does it with some of the least forthcoming people--teenagers.

This kind of dialogue comes from nearly two decades of experience. Nowak works for Marathon County as an alcohol and drug certified prevention specialist.

She says, "My goal is to get them to start changing their behaviors, but I'm also smart enough to know when I go into a group of teens, no matter whether they're an alternative, charter or regular school. When I go into a group of teens they're not going to hear this information and stop using."

A group at Storefront Alternative School in Wausau openly discusses their habits with Nowak. It's a relationship that's taken time to develop.

"This was the first place that I walked into that the kids wanted nothing to do with me. I walked in here and they hated me," Nowak said.

She says the number one issue for students at this school is marijuana, but today the talk focuses on alcohol. The candid conversation is part of the reason Nowak's approach works.

She said, "They started to realize that I'm only here to give them information. I'm not here to judge them and I do not judge them."

This trusting environment allows teens to share what they drink, how much and how often. In return, Nowak points out the consequences of using alcohol, how it works and often damages the body to give users a buzz.

"It's kinda ruining the experience for them now because they said they can actually think about where the alcohol is. What level it is in their brain, and so they're starting to think about it a little bit differently," she said.

Nowak uses the information she learns to teach community leaders what's out there, and how to work with these kids. Most often -- she advises them to make kids valued because that's what's missing when they fall into using.

"We all want to feel like we're valued. We want to feel like we're important and that's something that I pick up in a lot of these kids. They don't feel like they're valued. The alcohol and the drugs give them a camaraderie. They are all accepted when they're using, and I think that's kinda the biggest problem."



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