Spring is in the air, and so is spring fever. After a long winter, we know that our students are greatly anticipating upcoming celebrations like prom, graduation and summer vacation. These milestones are joyous times, but we also know they can make students more vulnerable to risky social situations.
The good news? Surveys show that the majority of our students do not drink alcohol or use drugs. We attribute this in part to our supportive programs—which happen not just in the spring, but year-round.
From the moment our students enter through our doors as freshmen, we are vigilant in our engagement and education efforts:
• Every October, we observe “Red Ribbon” week, an awareness campaign about alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention. This year, we invited former NBA player Chris Herren to speak to our students and community. Our 5,000 students and 900 community members heard his inspirational story of addiction and recovery.
• Twice a year, all students are invited to an offsite retreat called “Operation Snowball.” Speakers focus on leadership, communication and drug-free lifestyles, providing a foundation of information and skills for our students to make responsible decisions. One in four students has participated in this overnight program.
• We hold a variety of leadership programs throughout the school year, developing strong student leaders who in turn serve as positive peer role models.
Our tremendous partnerships in the community also support students. Downers Grove and Woodridge police officers are stationed inside both schools, and their interaction with students helps them to make positive choices. We recently teamed with the Community Coalition for Prevention and the Downers Grove Township to host a community town hall, where panelists explored the consequences of underage drinking. For those students and families needing extra attention, we refer them to our vast network of outside counseling organizations.
Parents are critical to the success of our programs, and we are lucky that ours are active and involved. Students benefit from parents who listen, and who know their hopes, dreams, friends--and plans for the night.
The conversation about making positive choices is an ongoing one. At District 99, we are committed to helping our students develop into healthy young adults—and celebrating safely not only this spring, but for their entire lives.
Author's note: District 99 Student Assistance Coordinators Diana Benoist (South High) and Keith Bullock (North High) support the development of student leaders, coordinate school-based prevention activities and events and provide education and intervention services in substance use and social-emotional health.