Classes: Sixth grades of Linda Rowley, Pat Clarke, Lori Salter and Mary Smith.
Subject: Building self-esteem to combat substance abuse
Number of students: Approximately 100 Sprucewood students enthusiastically interacted with Sly Dog, a group of three college students including Todd Sylvester, Brad Carson and Shaquel Andrus. The trio spent a week telling the youngsters that doing things to create positive feelings is a wonderful way to combat the sort of negative feelings that lead to drug use.
Each day, the "Sly Dog: Drug Free - That's Me!" college students had an activity with the children, including special speakers, a food drive for the homeless and a rousing last-day pizza party in the school gymnasium. The visitors also spent time with the children informally at lunch and on the playground, with the objective of becoming viewed as trusted, welcome role models.
While waiting for the pizza, the sixth-graders had demonstrations of rap dancing and a fun-for-all free dance session in which Sylvester, Carson and Andrus got right down and boogied with the students.
Location: 12025 S. 1000 East
Students: 930, kindergarten through sixth grade
Number of teachers: 33 Principal: Susan Turner School district: Jordan
The teacher hopes the students learned: "The students have just loved these relationships with the Sly Dog group," said Turner. "We have used many anti-drug programs, but this one has been special." The Sly Dog bunch used a variety of techniques, including a fishing fly rod, to show how easy it is to "get hooked" and how hard it is to get rid of the hook. Their youth and enthusiasm are particularly appealing to children, Turner said.
The children say they learned: "Sly Dog wants us to stay off drugs and build our self-esteem," said Cody Calderwood. "They said we shouldn't try to be like someone else." Much of the emphasis was on the expected transition from elementary school to junior high, where brushes with temptation are highly likely. "They have to have their minds made up before they get to junior high and high school."
What happens next: Sylvester, the innovator of the Sly Dog program, hopes to get his message to more schools. He has developed a Sly Dog cartoon character and a whole series of Sly Dog articles such as backpacks, etc., that he hopes to market, both to get the anti-drug message to children and to generate money for drug treatment programs. "I'll donate part of the profits," he said. He became interested in promoting a drug-free lifestyle among children when he sent for a T-shirt from another abuse prevention program. After working in that program for awhile, he decided to develop his own approach, with emphasis on accentuating positive, service-oriented behaviors to offset the negative. "It's impossible for you to do something for someone without your feeling good to the same degree you make them feel good," he summed up for the youngsters.
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