Marilyn Grifoni Belmonte ’80 worked in medical research for 10 years after graduating from Wheaton with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology. When her oldest daughter turned 13, she became concerned, as most parents do, about preventing the use of drugs and alcohol. So she joined her local prevention coalition. Little did she know that her volunteer work would lead to an amazing career in substance abuse prevention. From 2000 to 2005, she was a drug recognition specialist, training law enforcement officers at the Massachusetts State Police Academy, and then in 2005 she founded Drug Abuse Recognition & Prevention, to bring drug education to parents and youth professionals. Recently, her organization was awarded a mini-grant contract by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C. The administration promotes innovative programs that address critical substance abuse prevention or mental health needs. Belmonte’s workshops teach parents how to educate their children about drugs and alcohol without enticing them, improve parent-teen communication skills, and monitor their teens’ activities. Belmonte has been collaborating with consultants from the Boston University Center for Addictions Research and Services to evaluate her community presentations and parent workshops. This study is the first step toward having her workshops recognized by the federal administration as proven prevention programs and placed on a national registry of evidence-based initiatives. What does she consider her biggest accomplishment? “When parents contact me after a presentation and tell me how I have encouraged them to take action to get their children counseling or to take away the car keys because their teen is smoking marijuana or no longer accept underage drinking as a rite of passage or change how they talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol, I know I have made real changes that are helping families.” Belmonte gives Wheaton huge credit for contributing to her success: “My education at Wheaton gave me the platform to do anything my heart desired. My liberal arts degree allowed me to follow my dreams to be whatever I wanted to be.”
- Belmonte’s workshop is featured in a story on Cape Cod Kidz.