By Stephanie Globus-Hoenich
Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition and Above The Influence announce a new peer-mentorship program bringing substance abuse education to area middle and elementary school students.
Each week Brattleboro Union High School Above the Influence students gather with the guidance of their advisor, Hanako Jones, Student Assistance Program counselor, and BAPC Youth Programming Coordinator Stephanie Globus-Hoenich, to plan workshops on substance abuse prevention. The workshops are designed for middle school students at Putney Central School, Brattleboro Area Middle School, and Dummerston School, where participants range from members of Vermont Kids Against Tobacco and student leadership groups to students who are simply interested in learning more about this important topic.
The BUHS Peer Mentoring Program is built as four-week cycles. Weeks One and Two are spent brainstorming and planning what topic will be focused on and what activities to choose. Week Three is spent practicing facilitation of the chosen activities and Week Four is spent evaluating the success of the workshops. Between practice and evaluation, small groups of BUHS ATI Peer Mentors travel to their designated middle school and deliver the workshops as co-facilitators.
Thus far the program has been a success. "Students often pay more attention if someone their age or a little older is giving a presentation so it just makes sense to have our high schoolers working with the younger students in the middle schools" said Jones after observing the workshop held at Dummerston school. "Hopefully they retain and apply the knowledge they've learned in a way they may not have had the same information been delivered in a traditional classroom setting."
The first workshop focused on prescription drug abuse prevention and utilized a fun and engaging experiential activity to explore the impact that prescription drug addiction might have on a family or group of friends. An 11th grader at BUHS who is a member of ATI and an active mentor in the program commented that "the Dummerston School kids were very cooperative, and I found it fun to tell them about the dangers of drugs. Through the process I am learning very much about these drugs, but I am also learning about leadership, teamwork, and running different programs."
ATI students are currently planning the second workshop which will focus on tobacco and e-cigarette use prevention. Eventually, high school students will work with those same middle schoolers on presentation skills, and assist them in fine-tuning and delivering a skit to elementary school kids on the same topics.
It is the hope that this program can start fresh in the 2016-2017 school year with a new array of topics and workshops, and that even more teens and middle schoolers will be involved in educating one another about the dangers of substance abuse, and how to stay Above the Influence of it all. For more information and to get involved please contact Stephanie Globus-Hoenich at email@example.com.
Stephanie Globus-Hoenich is the Youth Programming Coordinator at Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition. Matters of Substance is a collaborative column of Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition. BAPC works to prevent and reduce substance abuse in the Windham Southeast area.