CHS to instate new DARE extension program

In an effort to further deter students from drug and alcohol abuse, Columbia High School has taken new steps to educate its students.

A new program, a sort of DARE extension class, is being merged with the sophomore health class.

Assistant superintendent Beth Horner has been working with the Columbia Police Department in an effort to expand the educational program in a more long-term way.

“Any type of education needs to be ongoing,” she said.

Horner looked at the data coming back from the Illinois Youth Survey and saw the most consistent and regular use for drugs and alcohol starts in 10th grade.

“I set up a meeting with our student council members last spring and came up with a 10-question survey to find out if our perceptions were the same,” she said. “We wanted to know where this program would fit in and what would be most effective.”

Judging by results of the survey, students wanted to hear from police officers and people who had been through rehab and could tell firsthand experiences.

Horner looked at the data with Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards and DARE officer Jason Donjon, and they began working on different segments that could be taught to CHS sophomores.

“Officer Donjon is going to be coming into our sophomore health classes first semester and do four lessons: alcohol and marijuana, meth and crack cocaine, prescription pills and heroin, and one on drug trends,” she said. “He’ll be in our health classes five or six times first semester.”

The lessons will be taught again during second semester to students who may not have had health their first semester.

The lessons will fit in with learning material in Kristy Row’s health class.

“Officer Donjon will talk about issues in our own community and tell what he’s seen and dealt with to make it more real to (the students),” she said.

After the first semester, Horner will ask students for feedback on how to make the lessons better.

“After spring semester, we’ll sit down and refine it all,” Horner said.

After it’s refined, Horner and the school district plan to make the idea and curriculum available to other area schools if they are interested.

“This is a home-grown effort,” she said. “There’s nothing else like it in the area, which is why we’re ready to roll it out if other schools want it after we refine it.”

In addition to this extension program, the Columbia school district has reinstated IHSA athlete random drug testing.

Horner hopes that if nothing else, it helps as a deterrent and gives students an excuse to not abuse substances.

“This is really just all a big awareness effort,” Horner said. “The students were really influential in us deciding to do this.”

Horner said she hopes students take a localized knowledge away from this program and understand that drugs like heroin are present in Monroe County.

“I hope this deters them and the message is so strong that they’ll think twice,” she said.

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