‘Happy And Safe’

Students Taught Dangers Of Substance Abuse

Members of the Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council have been teaching Lincoln Elementary School Students about the dangers of substance abuse, but in a way they will understand it. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Attempting to educate elementary students on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse may be tricky, but Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council has accepted the challenge.

CASAC is wrapping up its eight-week “Too Good for Drugs” program at Lincoln Elementary School this week. Members from the organization are continuing their efforts to educate elementary students on maintaining a healthy life.

Alex Rodriguez, member of CASAC, was teaching first grade students at Lincoln last week about general concepts involving medicine, food, alcohol and toxic substances. He said CASAC is in almost every school district throughout the county educating students on the dangers of substances.

“The goal is to promote healthy life skills, resiliency skills and ensure that students are being healthy, happy and safe,” Rodriguez said.

Through use of age-appropriate lessons, and often through puppets, the curriculum is tailored for the grade level.

Katie Russo, Lincoln principal, said the primary focus of the program is to preemptively guide the students to a healthy understanding of the negatives of drugs and alcohol prior to facing them in life. She also agreed that creating a palatable curriculum is key for the elementary students.

“You have to frame that information in a way that is accessible and developmentally appropriate, and that’s what CASAC does with their curriculum,” Russo said.

CASAC’s eight-week program was present at Lincoln last year, but only at the second-grade level. This year, the program was expanded to K-4 grade levels.

The program complements the school’s emphasis on social and emotional health. Russo said the program also promotes self-esteem, self-awareness, coping strategies and friendship skills.

Russo said promoting these elements, along with substance abuse education, at an early age is key.

“It’s imperative that we do this because this is an issue that reaches further than Jamestown,” Russo said. “We have to start being proactive rather than reactive , which means teaching children at a very young age how to be healthy, how to be well and how to set goals to avoid problems down the road with addiction.”

Russo believes the addiction and substance abuse issues are often preventable if enough awareness is raised.