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Prevention in the Classrooms

Prevention in the Classrooms
Empowering Students with Skills to Make the Right Choices

When Rochelle Jones, Certified Prevention Specialist for GCB’s Clermont Recovery Center, began working in the public schools to teach prevention 24 years ago, she was lucky to “get one shot at it,” she says. “They might give me an assembly period, where I would address the entire student body, and that was considered ‘good enough.’  We’ve evolved quite a bit since then.”

Today, Rochelle not only regularly teaches prevention in about a dozen elementary (starting with third grade), middle and high schools in Clermont County, she also ‘trains the trainers,’ including teachers and Child Focus school based therapists in Clermont County.  Her work has also expanded to the Clermont County Juvenile Detention Center, as well as after school programs at the library and even select apartment complexes.

The evidence-based drug and violence prevention program, Botvin LifeSkills Training (or LST) is designed to use developmentally appropriate and collaborative learning strategies taught through lecture, discussion, coaching, and practice to enhance students’ self-esteem, self-confidence, ability to make decisions, and ability to resist peer and media pressure.  The curriculum is intended to be age-specific, with the total number of lessons ranging from five to 15 in a given academic year, depending on grade level.

The lessons are also aligned with many common core standards, making for a seamless integration and assimilation into many different categories (Health, Sociology, Language Arts, etc.), which eliminates the need to find ‘extra’ class time to accommodate the entire program.

And while the approach to teaching prevention has evolved over the years, some things haven’t changed.  “The issue – the reasons why children start using substances to begin with, are largely still the same,” Rochelle says.  “Peer pressure; the difficulties of adolescence when emotions are high and impulse control is low. Scare tactics have been proven not to work; this evidence-based approach, on the other hand, has proven to be powerful.” 

Susan Fithen serves on GCB’s Assessment Team at the Clermont Recovery Center (CRC) and grew up in the Clermont area.  She was eight or nine years old and living with her mom and brother in an apartment complex that the Prevention Team regularly visited to facilitate after-school programs.  “I stayed inside a lot, but always would go to the community room if I knew they were coming,” she says.  “They focused on building our self-esteem and making good decisions. We regularly had homework help and positive adult interactions, which is more than a lot of the kids were getting at home, I suspect.”

As she grew older, she was exposed to pot and pills that were circulating in the schools.  “I was armed with the tools to say ‘no,’ she says.  “But not all my classmates did the same.”  When her uncle died from alcohol poisoning shortly before she graduated, she made a conscious decision to pursue a career track that would enable her to help those living with addiction.  She went on to complete her university practicum work with CRC’s Prevention Team, working side-by-side with some of the same members who she met when in grade school. 

“I see kids I grew up with coming in for services,” she says.  “It’s exciting to see them get help, but they could have been me.  Prevention in the schools is more important now than ever before. “

 

The LST training model, which includes training materials and workbooks, is quickly gaining momentum in Clermont County, as more and more schools are seeing the value of the program.  Pre/post survey results in May of 2017 showed that middle and high school students increased their knowledge by almost 32 percent and elementary students by almost 28 percent (above the projected 25 percent). 

Student feedback on the survey included the following comments:

  • ‘This is the most important thing I’ve learned in middle school.’
  • ‘Talked to my mom about this class and she loves that I’m in it.’
  • ‘This class made me think of the decisions of life and how they can affect me and others.’
  • ‘My favorite thing to talk about was alcohol cause my dad’s an alcoholic.’

What’s also different these days – “parental use is on the rise,” says Rochelle, “and it clouds the children’s perception of harm, because it’s more prevalent. In any given middle school classroom, half of them know of someone who’s overdosed.”

“We’re helping them build a tool chest full of skills that will empower them to know what to do in a challenging situation, vs. what not to do.”

Rochelle Jones was recently awarded the Community Champion Award from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Association of Ohio (ADAPAO).