In an era where distractions and societal pressures constantly beckon young minds, one challenge stands out starkly: substance abuse in schools. For many educators, confronting this challenge is more than just fulfilling a mandate. It's about preserving the sanctity of educational spaces and ensuring a bright future for every child.
Informed Families Catalyst
As society continues to evolve, so do the complexities and challenges facing our younger generations. More than ever, there's an urgent need to equip our children with the right knowledge, skills, and attitudes to help them navigate the world safely and responsibly. This need underscores the critical importance of starting prevention education at a young age - particularly, at the elementary school level.
President's Message - August 2023
The phrase "Back to School" tends to stir a whirlwind of emotions in all of us. What are the first
words that spring to mind for you? And what about your child?
Congratulations to our 2020 Red Ribbon Certified Schools: Eccleston Elementary, Lake Como School and Rock Lake Elementary in Orange County and Redland Middle School in Miami-Dade County.
Becoming a Red Ribbon Certified School is a distinguished achievement for schools focused on prevention and healthy student outcomes. The UCF Institute for Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of Central Florida assessed their performance in four areas: school environment, best practices in education, parent engagement and substance abuse prevention activities.
“Studies show that in the wake of the pandemic, youth are experiencing an increase in mental health issues like loneliness, depression, anxiety and grief. We expect to see an increase in alcohol and drug misuse to cope with the secondary effects of Covid-19,” said Peggy Sapp, Informed Families President and CEO. “The pandemic is highlighting the need for healthy environments and prevention practices as part of school culture. Schools offer more than just academics. They provide support and services to help kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free. We are so proud of all the schools that recognize the importance of prevention and have gone the extra mile to become Red Ribbon Certified.”
A small girl at Redland Middle School waited patiently for the other students surrounding filmmaker Erahm Christopher to leave so she could ask one question: What is the time of tonight’s screening? I really want my Mom to come and see the film.
Informed Families partnered with Mr. Christopher to host a screening of his film LISTEN at Redland Middle School on February 6, 2020. Themes covered in the film include bullying, cyber bullying, racism, gang violence and suicide. Following the screening, students had a chance ask Mr. Christopher questions and voice their thoughts and feelings about the issues featured in the film. The response was overwhelming.
According to Soraya Herran, a guidance counselor at Redland Middle School, the next day “the students couldn’t stop talking about the film and discussion they had participated in.”
Informed Families newly-designated 2019 Red Ribbon Certified Schools include: Brownsville, Citrus Grove and Homestead Middle Schools in Miami-Dade County, FL; West Orange and Cypress Creek High Schools in Orange County, FL; and North Atlanta High School in Fulton County, GA.
The Red Ribbon Certified Schools in both Miami-Dade and Orange Counties received special recognition during the October School Board meetings in their respective counties.
“I learned how to handle peer pressure and say no to drugs.”
“I didn’t know people could die from alcohol poisoning.”
“I didn’t know how much of a problem prescription drug abuse was.”
“Many of our peers are dealing with drug issues themselves or have a family member with a problem.”
Student ambassadors in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Creating Community Change: Youth Engagement Program (CCC:YEP) program shared these messages and much more during their end of the year presentations at the Betty T. Ferguson Center in Miami Gardens on May 22, 23 and 24.
Topics: red ribbon week, ambassadors, prescription drug abuse, lock your meds, safe homes smart parties, middle school, peer pressure, drug free, drug prevention, parent peer group, miami gardens, miami
Red Ribbon Week is approaching, and middle schools across Florida will be raising awareness and facilitating communication about kids making healthy choices. The red ribbons that teachers and students will wear aren’t just for decoration—they signify a commitment to staying safe and resisting the dangers of teenage drug and alcohol use. Such a campaign would seem naturally geared toward high schoolers, but the message is just effective for middle schoolers and even earlier. In fact, the years when kids are 11-14 might be the most important time to deliver these messages.
As much as we want to believe middle schoolers aren’t old enough to be abusing drugs and alcohol, the reality is junior high kids are just as vulnerable as high schoolers, perhaps even more so. The parts of the young adolescent brain that deal with stress are still maturing, and the coping mechanisms they learn now can become ingrained for the rest of their lives. If middle schoolers turn to drugs this early, they can be setting themselves up for a lifetime of struggle.
Parents at Freeport Middle School generally respond to Informed Families Ambassador and All Star Safe Healthy & Drug Free School winner Laura Estes quite positively. Not to anyone’s surprise, the majority of parents are very appreciative of her dedication to the health and well-being of her students, demonstrated by her delivery of year-round prevention programs.
“One mom told me she was walking by her daughter’s room and heard her daughter say, ‘no, we can never get involved with anything like that because you remember what Ms. Estes said,’” said Laura. “I love to hear stories like that or run into former students who tell me that they never tried drugs after going through my program.”
However, not all responses are immediately positive, especially among parents who are smokers or heavy drinkers.
“One parent who smoked cigarettes said, ‘if I have to hear about the harmful effects of tobacco products one more time, I’m going to strangle you,’” said Estes, with a smile. “Several of my students have inspired their own parents to break out of bad habits. They tell me all the time, ‘my mom hasn’t had a cigarette in three weeks’ or ‘my dad isn’t drinking as much anymore.’”
Florida Schools Honored For Prevention Success During 2014-2015 School Year
Go Team! 18 schools across the State of Florida just earned bragging rights for their outstanding efforts to help prevent underage drinking and substance abuse. The All Star Safe, Healthy & Drug Free Schools were selected and recognized by Informed Families.
The schools (listed below) were chosen among hundreds of schools participating in Informed Families’ Ambassador Program for their demonstrated dedication to year-round prevention activities and for their success in actively engaging students, parents and faculty in prevention.
“Spring is the season for school celebrations – and now 18 of the most dedicated schools in Florida have more to celebrate,” said Peggy B. Sapp, President and CEO of Informed Families. “Informed Families All Star Safe, Healthy and Drug Free Schools understand the importance of spreading healthy, drug-free messages to help students and families make good choices surrounding alcohol and other drugs, ultimately saving lives. Our programs are designed to curb underage drinking, substance abuse and other risky behaviors - and the impact is real, thanks to the involvement of schools across Florida – and especially our All Star Schools.”