New drug program coming for Portales fourth-graders

By Tony Parra

A new drug and alcohol prevention program at Valencia Elementary will be one of the first programs introduced to a New Mexico school, according to Roosevelt County Teen Court Coordinator Barbara Rogers.
Rogers was in training with two other facilitators — Marcia Brown, DWI Program coordinator ,and Riki Seat, DWI Compliance coordinator for Roosevelt County — on Tuesday afternoon with 10 fourth-grade teachers at Valencia Elementary. Rogers said the Hobbs School District had the only other school which was going to implement the program in New Mexico this fall.
Rogers said schools were not having success through the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program and said the “Too Good for Drugs” program created by the Mendez Foundation has had proven results.
“We are going to go this route for our prevention,” Rogers said about the Portales schools. “The D.A.R.E. method didn’t work. This science-based program has proven that it works.”
The results Rogers talked about are based out of Florida. An independent evaluation of public schools in Tampa Bay provided surveys to teachers to measure high school students’ changes in attitudes, skills and beliefs, according to the Mendez Foundation Web site. The survey had questions linked to program objectives and the surveys showed the program helped reduce students’ intentions to smoke cigarettes by 46 percent, drink alcohol by 51 percent and smoke marijuana by 44 percent, according to the Web site.
“The program also helps improve discipline and improve state scores,” Rogers said. “The program is very easy to use and you can prepare a lesson in 15 minutes.”
Rogers said she went to Sonoma Valley, Calif., in July to train for the program.
“Some of the teachers there were so frustrated because the state is mandating violence and drug-free programs,” Rogers said. “They didn’t have enough money to put in place some of the other programs. We’re fortunate it’s not mandatory by our state legislation. We’re paying for all of our curriculum (through grant money only).”
Rogers told teachers they can implement one lesson each week for 10 weeks throughout the school year and they can spread out the lesson throughout the week. Each lesson is between 30 to 60 minutes. Teachers will need to incorporate the program lessons within other classes such as math and reading.
An example of one of the lessons would be reading a book which shows what happens when a student makes a decision to drink or creating a newspaper layout with their photo and a headline stating a long-term goal. The story would be about the long-term goal.
Brown said she fills out applications for the grant which provides funding for the program. Rogers said the “Too Good for Drugs” program for the fourth graders will be the first for Portales schools and hopes for funding for the other grades next year.
“We hope to get funding for the county schools (Elida, Dora and Floyd) next week,” Brown said. “We’re trying to help kids make good choices and to handle peer pressure for using drugs and alcohol.”
Rogers said over 50,000 schools in the United States have the program in place. She said it takes 10 years to be a model program according to Substance and Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, a government agency. She said SAMHSA approved the “Too Good for Drugs” program for schools because of the results.
Rogers said the four major components of the program are school, community, family and peers. Rogers said some of the lessons require homework to be done with the students’ parents. Brown said she, Seat and Rogers will be at the recreation center to help students with homework, helping covering the community aspect of the program.
“We have to involve the parents,” Rogers said. “It’s been proven if parents are involved the program is twice as effective.”
Rogers gave the teachers a choice of how to interact with the parents of the students and the teachers chose to send out a letter to inform parents about the program.