DRUG EDUCATION PEER COUNSELING PROGRAM
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The R. H. Watkins High School Drug Education Peer Counseling Program in Laurel Mississippi has been in existence since 1972, serving as a pilot program for the State of Mississippi. It has been recognized as one of the nations most effective drug abuse prevention programs over the years. The purpose of the program is to train a selected group of 25 to 30 eleventh and twelfth grade student peer counselors in the area of drug prevention and let them present various drug related programs in grades K-8 to our area school students. The peer counselors present between eighty and one-hundred drug related programs per year to seven public schools and three private schools. Approximately 3,300 public school students and 700 private school students are taught drug abuse prevention once a month for the entire school year. Students requesting drug education are interviewed individually by the coordinator. The student and his parents are required to read and sign an agreement stating the qualifications and responsibilities of the program. Students selected for the program are trained by classroom instruction, in-service programs and field trips. Training includes units on topics such as pharmacology, drug terminology, symptoms of drug abuse, decision-making skills, peer pressure, values clarification, coping skills, self-awareness, and how to say "no" to alcohol and drugs. Grades and one unit of credit for drug education are awarded to those students who successfully complete and participate in all the stated requirements.
In keeping with the philosophy of the Laurel City Schools Drug Education Program, it is felt that our students should develop an awareness and understanding of the problems that are a part of our society today. It is a well known fact that many of our young people turn to drugs because of their inability to cope with and understand these problems. It is our belief that once these problems are brought out into the open and discussed, they can be better understood and coped with when the proper decision making skills are put into use.
The most effective approach to drug abuse is the individual's value system and his assessment of the consequences associated with the misuse of drugs. Emphasis should be aimed at helping students develop an understanding of themselves and others. Skills in the development of good mental health are also important to drug prevention. The Drug Education Program for students must begin at an early age. It is no longer appropriate to conceive of drug abuse education and prevention only at the secondary level.
LONG RANGE OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAM
1. To teach the young people of our school district about the dangers associated with drug use and abuse.
2. To teach the young people of our school district about the proper uses of medicines, household and environmental chemicals.
3. To teach the young people of our school district skills in decision making, goal setting and handling peer pressure.
4. To help the young people of our school district strengthen and clarify their value systems.
5. To encourage the young people of our school district to participate in activities which don't require or condone drug use.
6. To show the young people of our school district the importance of reaching their full potential for physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth without the interference of drugs.
Objectives (Grades K -3)
1. To help the child develop a respect for drugs and medicine.
2. To help the child to have~a positive attitude for the body and an understanding of the care of the body.
3. To help the child to be aware that growing up Involves choices and to help him understand the results of these choices.
4. To help the child develop a sense of responsibility for self and others.
5. To help the child develop a healthy self-concept.
Objectives (Grades 4- 6)
1. To help the child develop a familiarity with drugs and the effects that they have on the body.
2. To help the child to be aware that medications are for a specific purpose when prescribed for the individual.
3. To help the child understand the decision-making process.
4. To help the child understand that emotions and feelings can have an effect on our behavior.
5. To help the child develop a clear understanding of the social-cultural, physical- medical, and psychological effects on drugs.
6. To help the child understand that there are different feelings and practices about the use of medications, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages.
Objectives (Grades 7 - 12)
1. To help the student appreciate each individual for their own worth and dignity.
2. To help the student gain a better understanding of self as well as an understanding of others.
3. To help the student have an understanding of the pressures that adolescents have.
4. To help the student to learn:
a. How to cope in difficult situations.
b. How to make appropriate decisions.
c. How to clarify values.
d. Knowledge of drugs and medications.
e. How to promote good physical and mental health.
THE "ACE" PHILOSOPHY
The Selection Process
The "ACE" Philosophy is used as part of the selection process for peer counselors.
"ACE" means the best there is: a hole-in~ne in golf, a perfect serve in tennis, and the highest card in a deck. "ACE" has a special meaning by breaking it down into three parts:
Attitude, Character, and Enthusiasm.
(1) ATTITUDE - A positive attitude means believing in yourself, in what you're doing, and the people you're doing it with. If you believe in yourself - if you can see and feel yourself reaching your goal - you're halfway there. Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching? A peer counselor must have a positive attitude, believe in himself, and in the ultimate goal of the program, that of producing a drug-free environment.
(2) CHARACTER - Your character reflects the kind of person you are when you think nobody is looking. It encompasses your morals and ethics; the principles you believe in and the rules that you live by. A peer counselor's character is based on a sense of fairness, honesty and the desire to do his best at everything he does. By having good character, a peer counselor should set a positive example for others and be a good role model.
(3) ENTHUSIASM - Enthusiasm comes from a Greek word that means God within. Life is too tough not to try to enjoy it; enthusiasm enables you to enjoy the challenges you face everyday. Peer Counselors who are enthusiastic are willing to make a commitment to reach their personal goals and those of the Drug Education Program.
Once you've set your goals and have a plan of action, Attitude, Character and Enthusiasm will help you achieve success. The "ACE" Philosophy can help anyone succeed at anything they want to do as long as they are willing to make the commitment.
PEER COUNSELOR CHALLENGES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
As a Drug Education Peer Counselor you have the opportunity to help the youth of our community develop to their full potential without the interference of illegal drug use. It is a responsibility you must not take lightly. Therefore please read the following responsibilities you will be expected to fulfill next school year as a member of the Drug Education team and discuss them with your parents or guardians. If you wish to participate in the program next year, you and your parents should sign in spaces provided at the bottom and return the form to the Drug Education Coordinator.
Responsibilities of a Peer Counselor:
1. Understand and be able to clearly state orally to the Drug Education Class, and, in writing, to the coordinator your beliefs and attitudes about drug use among teens and adults.
2. Remain drug free promoting the proper example to the students of the school system
3. Maintain an average of C or better in all subjects.
4. Maintain citizenship average of B or better in all classes.
5. Participate in some club or extra-curricular activity which emphasizes the positive side of school life.
6. Participate in any in-service training program prior to the start of school, or during the school year, to better prepare yourself.
7. Learn a vocabulary list of technical and slang terms associated with drug use and successfully complete a written exam on them.
8. Complete a Unit on the pharmacology (classification) of drugs and successfully complete a written examination on the Unit.
9. Complete a Unit on the identification and symptoms of drug abuse, History and reasons for drug abuse, and the legal economic aspects of drug abuse and successfully complete a written examination on the Units.
10. Prepare, organize and successfully present monthly programs on drug abuse and related topics in each of the elementary and Junior High Schools of the city school system, and submit to evaluations of these presentations.
11. Prepare, organize and present programs on drug abuse and related topics to community groups, churches and statewide groups as needed.
12. Participate in rap sessions or individual counseling sessions with City School students as needed.
13. Attend at least one Drug Council meeting per year, attend the annual Drug Council Awards Banquet, work in the Drug Council Fair exhibit if needed and participate in any Drug Council Workshops if needed.
14. Keep an up to date scrapbook of news items relating to drug abuse.
Challenges to a Peer Counselor:
Care enough to share.
Know Your goals and objectives before you speak
Maintain your focus.
Know the behaviors or attitudes that you would like to see addressed or changed.
Believe in what you are saying or doing or don't participate. Young people respond not to what you say as much as how you say it. Are you genuine, honest, sincere, vulnerable, respectful, accepting, empathetic, positive, etc.?
Be very aware of selective listening. Is the audience hearing what you're saying the way that you're saying it? Always think audience as you speak. Could what you are saying be interpreted differently by people in your audience? If so, and if the impact could be less than positive - leave it out. Even the best intentioned speaker could hurt an audience so be careful.
Expect the normative behavior and response to your presentation to be positive. Again, if you believe, they will too. Do not speak from a defensive perspective.
8. Never teach on an empty spirit. If a child is hurting then it is time to listen, not teach. When delivering a presentation, never put down or make fun of your audience. Make fun of yourself or a character in a story to make your point.
A few rules of thumb when preparing a speech:
(a) Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.
(b) Reinforce each point with a story.
(c) Relate the speaker to the topic, the speaker to the audience, and the audience to the topic.
(d) Love enough to care and care enough to share.
THE TOTAL CURRICULUM
The drug education curriculum is designed to serve grades K- 12. Different grade levels are served by various programs. The grade levels are grouped as follows: K-3, 4-6, 7-12. Specific objectives for each of the three levels have been established.
The curriculum was developed with the belief that the most effective approach to drug abuse prevention is the individual's value system and his assessment of the consequences associated with the misuse of drugs. Decision making can be aided when sensitive teacher-pupil relationships, based upon mutual understanding, integrity, and honesty, are established. The school program must begin early; it is no longer appropriate to conceive of beginning drug abuse education at the secondary level.
The curriculum includes:
(1) The Mississippi Substance Abuse Prevention Curriculum, which services K-12, is taught by drug education peer counselors to other students of the district every two weeks. The length of the sessions are 25-30 minutes. This curriculum utilizes a developmental approach to substance abuse prevention with emphasis on gaining information which is needed to make sound decisions about drug use.
(2) Health Education is taught in grades K-12 by classroom teachers. It was implemented for the purpose of helping our students understand the factors that contribute to total health. In grades K-6 Health is taught once a week for 50 minutes. In grades 7-8 It is taught everyday for nine weeks for 1 hour a day. In grades 9-12 Health is a semester course taught 50 minutes per day for 18 weeks.
(3) Character Education is taught in grades K-7 by the classroom teacher. It is taught once a week for 50 minutes. Character Education enables classroom teachers to help children develop positive personal values and improve behavior and self-esteem.
(4) ME-Ology is taught in grades K-6 one hour per week for 18 weeks. It is taught by members of the Junior Auxiliary on a voluntary basis. It deals with prevention of health problems rather than crisis intervention.
(5) Clear Choices is taught in grades 7-12 one hour per week for nine weeks. It is taught by members of the Junior Auxiliary on a voluntary basis. The primary goal of clear choices is to equip students with skills to say no to drugs and alcohol. It is a continuation of ME-Ology.
(6) Drug Education Peer Counseling Program serves grades K-12. It is taught by the districts’ Drug Education Coordinator. It is taught 50 minutes per day for the entire school year. The purpose of the program is to train a selected group of 11th and 12th grade students in the area of drug abuse prevention and let them present various drug- related programs to our area students in grades K-8. Programs are presented every two weeks for the entire school year. The average length of the sessions are 25-30 minutes.
PEER COUNCIL PROGRAM RECOGNITION
Hard work and dedication have paid off in our efforts to achieve local, state, and national recognition for our peer counseling program. Some of the honors include:
(1) being chosen to represent the state of Mississippi at the "Secretary's Conference on Teenage Drinking and Driving" in Washington, D.C.
(2) being invited to attend a ceremony at the White House introducing the handbook, Schools Without Drugs. Nancy Reagan presided over the ceremony on September 23, 1986.
(3) presenting consecutive workshops, "Schools Without Drugs, A Model Program" at the tenth and eleventh PRIDE International Drug Conferences in Atlanta, Georgia in March 1987 and April 1988.
(4) presenting a workshop on peer counseling at the "Governors Conference on Children" in Phoenix, Arizona on October 23, 1987.
(5) being included in the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Drug Education Programs in Washington, D.C. in October 1987.
(6) being evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education for the Drug Free Schools Recognition Program for 1988.
(7) presenting a workshop to the American Medical Association on "Adolescent Health: Charting a Course Through Turbulent Times" in Chicago, Illinois on May 13, 1988.
(8) being one of 23 high schools in the nation to receive the Drug Free Schools Recognition Award for the 1988-89 school year at the White House from President George Bush on June 19, 1989.
We are honored to have the opportunity to share the success of our program with others all across our nation. We hope to provide the kind of practical knowledge parents, educators, students, and communities can use to continue to combat drug abuse in our society. If we can make a difference to one person, all of our efforts will be worthwhile.
2. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.