CRARYVILLE–Columbia County school districts are working to address drug and substance abuse issues facing school children by participating in a peer-to-peer, interactive drug prevention program called Shattering the Myths. For three days last month, the Taconic Hills Central School District was the site for the three-step program sponsored by the Mentor Foundation USA and funded, in part, by the Rip Van Winkle Foundation and a federal grant.
Joseph Green, a professional spoken word artist who says that he has been in recovery from substance abuse for six years, led the session. He explained the program’s approach that “prevention and recovery go hand-in-hand,” adding that peer-to-peer intervention is most effective.
The first interactive stage, Courage Under Fire, works with creative writing classes. Students write poems expressing their feelings about drug and alcohol usage. Five students are asked to read their poems at the second stage, which is a public presentation the next day before the student body at a general assembly. The second stage has two fixed elements: a game show that explores the science of substance abuse and how it negatively impacts teens’ physical and mental development and also provides the opportunity for students to win prizes.
The other fixed element is testimony from local people in recovery. The last part of the presentation is the “Courage Under Fire” writers who read their poems. This segment was aired November 18 on the WTEN Channel 10 new 6 p.m. broadcast.
The program’s third phase, Youth Ambassador Training, involved seven students in grades 9-to-11, selected by the school administration and trained as leaders to discourage their peers, who may be enticed to experiment with tobacco, alcohol and drugs or to encourage peers actively using banned substances to seek help. The group is charged with creating either a single large event or series of smaller events that discourage drug use and to present them to the general student body later in the school year.
Mr. Green skillfully led the students through a series of exercises, asking students to write down five amazing things about themselves, two challenges they are facing and what tangible things they can do to meet their challenges. The students shared their writings. After a short break, the students formed two groups to brainstorm ideas for their own interactive events.
The project has a $500 budget and while the events aren’t at the point where the students are ready to have a reporter divulge their brainstorming divulged to the public, the enthusiasm of the students was infectious.
Along with THCSD, Germantown and Ichabod Crane high schools are participating in Shattering the Myths. Mentor Foundation USA has been sponsoring this interactive drug prevention program for four years and anticipates that 1,300 Columbia County high school students will participate in the program during November and December.