-- — Ever since the Batesville High School Students Against Destructive Decisions merged with the Choices program a few years ago, students have been working on ways to incorporate the “Above the Influence” message there.
The back of an Indiana SADD T-shirt worn by Brittany Gunter, Choices/ SADD co-president, had words about decisions: “It only takes one. One text, one song, one drink, one glance, one call, one game, one reach, one distraction, one fatal moment. Drive responsibly. There’s only one you.”
She was at the Batesville Community School Corp. Aug. 20 meeting with director Cindy Blessing and two other officers (Vice President Kaitlyn Christie and public relations coordinator Jessie Mittleman) to detail progress.
Two upcoming events have been planned after successful debuts during the past school year. The aim of Choices – which reaches students in grades 6-12 at BHS, Batesville Middle School, Oldenburg Academy and St. Louis School – is to offer fun activities that don’t include drugs and alcohol.
An outdoor post-football game party co-hosted with Southeastern Indiana YMCA will take place Sept. 28, according to Christie.
A free lights-out party for high schoolers in Batesville and Oldenburg with strobe and black lights illuminating teens wearing glow items will happen Nov. 3 from 9 p.m.-midnight at RomWeber Marketplace.
A new tactic: A drug-related question is posed on the front of each home football program with the answers on the Choices Web site, according to Blessing. “It gets them to our Web site (www.batesvillechoices.com) and it gets our name out there.”
Parent pledges were part of 1,500 student packets at the four schools during registration. They may still be completed at home or signed at the Oct. 4 BMS chili supper.
Parents who wonder if a party invitation is at a safe home may access the Web site listing of families who have promised not to serve or allow alcohol.
A year ago, five area high school students attended a youth leadership conference hosted by the Ripley County Local Coordinating Council at BHS. According to the director, “The goal was to pick students who were not necessarily leaders and try to turn them into leaders” with the emphasis on addressing alcohol and drug problems at their schools.
During a spring follow-up conference, forming a countywide youth-driven coalition was discussed. Students recommended creating Big Brother and Sister programs. High school students could be assigned to mentor middle school ones.
Blessing said in the future, Choices/SADD officials would like to award a senior who has made a difference in the upcoming youth coalition a scholarship.
What’s happened during the past year? After a lights-out dance was held for BHS and OA students, in March 166 BMS and SLS students attended one. One lure: “We always provide them with free food,” Blessing said.
A big push always occurs during October’s antidrug Red Ribbon Week. Gunter reported BHS students watched videos and took quizzes during SRT period, with the winning classroom earning doughnuts. A students vs. staff basketball game “is always a big hit,” Blessing said.
Drug facts were written on sidewalks with chalk at BMS.
During Kick Butts Day in March, Choices leaders displayed a mass of shoes on the commons stage. A sign stated, “The 50 pairs of shoes you see here represent the amount of people that will die from a tobacco-related disease while you are at lunch.”
Members talked to YMCA youth “about trying to stay above drugs. They really appreciated hearing our side of the story,” according to Christie.
A free movie night with food for BMS and SLS sixth- through eighth-graders at the Gibson Theatre during 2011’s holiday break may get an encore this winter.
A Franklin County young woman discussed her drug progression, prison stays and what it took to turn her life around with BHS teens.
During Mix It Up Day, BMS students mingled with those they usually didn’t socialize with at different tables during lunch. The director reflected, “It’s one day out of your life, which may leading to a lasting friendship.”
School board members had favorable reactions. Steve Stein said, “It looks like you’re getting the word out … sometimes kids have to get hit over the head more than once. We want to tackle the issue with heroin, but we know the core problem is alcohol. They start with alcohol and they progress.”
Chris Lowery could see how Choices/ SADD’s influence may be impactful after studying percentages from recent annual Indiana Prevention Resource Center survey statistics.
“Alcohol use has dropped by a third since 2006 ... Lifetime use is literally half ... (there is ) almost a 100 percent increase in families signing the Choices program pledge.”
“Those numbers are all going in the right direction.”
When targeted goals are met or exceeded, the director admits, “It’s very, very comforting to know we are making a difference. We hope and think we are, but until you see the data, you never know for sure.”