THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Information is power.
That philosophy is the driving force behind Sacramento Elementary Schools decision to offer interactive alcohol and other drug prevention education in the classroom and evening workshops to help parents do an even better job of raising their children.
This year, students will receive lessons designed to help them make healthy choices about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs as part of Sacramentos collaboration with Oregon Partnership, a statewide nonprofit organization. The lessons build on a public-private alliance that began last year, when the school - part of the Parkrose School District - and Oregon Partnership provided evening workshops on parenting. Those workshops are again being offered, starting this month.
The goal of the classroom lessons and parent workshops is to empower families and strengthen the community, said Sacramento Elementary Principal Stevie Blakely.
In one exercise, children run in place while breathing through a straw to learn how smoking damages their bodies and makes it difficult to breathe. In another, a display board with candy and pills attached teaches students to recognize the difference between the two.
Several adult volunteers have signed up to present the lessons, but the school is seeking additional volunteers, said Paul Crowley, a counselor at Sacramento.
The volunteers are exited about teaching and passionate about prevention, he said.
Brenna Clark has been a volunteer at Sacramento for four years, starting in high school when she was a member of the National Honor Society. Now an education major at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Ore., Clark has signed on to deliver alcohol and other drug prevention lessons in the classroom as part of her volunteer work at Sacramento. She said reaching students with prevention information is important prior to their middle-school years, which are a time of great change for youngsters.
Its really an important message to get across, Clark said, adding that her volunteerism is extremely rewarding. Its a lot of fun, and really rewarding to see the smiles on their faces.
Mary Vernon, whose daughter attends Sacramento, said she is volunteering in the classroom because she wants to help children make good choices and families become healthier. Vernon, who manages Parkrose-area apartment complexes, sees the impact of substance abuse on families up close.
The more information we give children, the more it will help them stay away from alcohol and other drugs, she said. Vernon also stressed the power of parent-child communication, saying her daughter encouraged her to quit smoking.
Blakely said there is tremendous value in parents and other adults volunteering their time in the classroom.
Its good for kids to see parents as role models, she said. If the parents have a positive experience in the classroom, they feel like they are a part of the school and share that with their neighbors, which helps connect the community.
Moreover, research shows that parents are the most significant influence in a childs life, according to KC Marshall and Jill Ripple, co-directors of Oregon Partnerships Parenting for Prevention program.
Elementary school is an advantageous time to reach children with prevention messages because at that age they express interest in taking care of themselves and staying healthy, Marshall said. The lessons cover not just the health consequences of alcohol and other drugs, but also skills students can use to refuse drugs. In addition, the lessons open the door for children to talk with their parents about substance abuse issues.
This is a great age for parents to start that conversation with their kids, Marshall said.
The skill-building workshops for parents and other caregivers focus on substance abuse prevention, Internet safety, bullying, creating parent networks, the parenting approach known as Love and Logic and other subjects. Sacramento and Oregon Partnership have teamed up with the Boys & Girls Club to provide free childcare during the workshops, which generally run for about an hour. Dinner also is provided.
Ripple said the workshops are designed not just for parents. They are open to anyone who is caring for a child, she said, noting that Oregon Partnership hopes to collaborate with other schools in Mid-Multnomah County to offer the classroom lessons and parent workshops.
Blakely said Sacramentos collaboration with Oregon Partnership is part of a broad effort to build stronger connections with the diverse community the school serves. As many as 15 languages are spoken by families whose children attend Sacramento. The schools demographics are broad, including African-American, Eastern European, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Native American and Caucasian families. Such diversity presents challenges and opportunities, Blakely said. Sacramento has 420 students, more than half of whom receive free or reduced-price lunches.
As part of its community-building efforts, Sacramento during the summer partnered with six area churches on a summer reading program to build students literacy skills. About 75 children participated in the program, now in its second year.
Sacramento also is taking part in International Walk to School Day. On Oct. 5, adults are encouraged to join Sacramento students in walking to school. In 2004, about 3 million people from 36 countries walked to school, according to event organizers.
Walk to School Day encourages exercise, helps the community become more aware of safety issues and promotes safer, more connected neighborhoods, Crowley said.
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