Dick Nitsch  from the Herald Times opines on drug abuse prevention amongst teens:

The Two RiversSchool District is currently on its third year of a three-year Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Grant. The grant made $40,000 a year available to the district for AODA prevention activities, including the “mock accident scene” that took place last week.

The district has partnered with the Manitowoc County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention to develop prevention strategies for Two Rivers and the entire county.

The district received the grant in part because Manitowoc County typically ranks high when compared to the state average in the category of underage drinking. Two Rivers High School, along with all of the other high schools in the county, conducts a Youth Risk Behavior Survey once every other year. The survey provides the district information about the onset of alcohol use, the prevalence of alcohol use, and other related risky behaviors such as driving with someone who has been drinking.

The district has shown improvements since the last administration of the YRBS, but there is still room for improvement. Countywide data suggests that many students have their first experience with alcohol while they are in middle school. That has caused the district to focus a large amount of prevention efforts on the middle school age group.

Research

Research indicates that parents are the greatest influence on an adolescent’s decision to use alcohol or other drugs. Therefore, attention has been given to educating parents on the negative effects of alcohol on the developing brain. Since the brain continues to develop until the mid-20s, it is crucial that parents discourage use of alcohol prior to the legal drinking age of 21. The athletic code has been one area of focus to educate parents. Parents are now required to attend a code meeting where they are given information about the consequences both on and off the field related to drinking and other code violations. Other education opportunities for parents include articles related to AODA issues in monthly newsletters.

At freshmen orientation, parents and the incoming ninth-graders sit together while they share a spaghetti supper and are given focus questions to discuss critical issues that the teen will likely face in high school such as, “What will you do if a friend asks you to go to a drinking party?” and “If I end up at a party where there is drinking, how will you react when I call for a ride home?” We believe presenting these questions before the actual situation occurs; students will more likely make better choices.

Parent tool kits are now available for check out that include articles, DVD’s, books, etc. that provide parents with the tools that are essential in raising a healthy child who will remain alcohol and drug free.

‘Life of an Athlete’

The district has also promoted the “Life of an Athlete” program, which trains athletes to develop their leadership skills in order to influence peers to make healthy choices, including abstaining from alcohol. Athletes have learned from John Underwood that one night of binge drinking removes the effects of two weeks of training.

Our district involves parents in hosting our post prom so students have an opportunity to celebrate prom in an alcohol-free environment. They are also invited to join the movement to proclaim their intentions of not providing alcohol to anyone under age 21 by displaying their commitment on their front lawn with a “Parents who Host Lose the Most” yard sign.

Other avenues

Another focus is for peers to educate and support peers to join them in remaining alcohol and drug free. Some opportunities for this include a group called T.A.T.U. (Teens Against Tobacco Use). This group sponsors activities throughout the year to educate peers about the effects of tobacco, including doing presentations to all third- and fifth-graders the age when children begin to experiment with tobacco.

Students also can participate in P.L.U.S. (Peer Leaders Understanding Students) at the high school or P.L.U.S Jr. at the middle school. This club meets monthly with a different focus each month, such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, bullying, etc. Activities can include having students sign pledge cards, putting up posters or sponsoring activity nights. There also is a club called HEROS who promote healthy relationships.

Finally, the focus of ASAP has been to change the culture of our community that alcohol has to be included in the majority of community events and celebrations. A group of students now meets monthly called Youth Voice Ambassadors. These students are learning about virtues and using these virtues to make positive decisions to promote a positive, healthy school culture.

Advertisements