In the not-so-distant past, a teen in trouble for smoking a cigarette in the school restroom might earn a stern lecture from the principal and detention. Today, a child caught vaping might meet with a substance use expert who would help the individual build healthy coping skills to avoid further use.
That is how the story played out for one young person in Vermillion County, whose intervention was a series of educational lessons with a Rosecrance Central Illinois prevention specialist. The conversations on drugs, peer pressure, and life skills left a positive impact: The student decided to join Rosecrance’s Vermillion County youth advisory committee, which brings adolescents and adults together to plan schools’ substance use prevention programming.
In another prevention success, a teen who had been experimenting with substance use went through the virtual programming and realized using wasn’t worth it to jeopardize his desire to play sports.
“We give students an opportunity to increase their strength to avoid substances,’’ said Rosecrance Director of Outreach Mary Egan. “Those little success stories are what drive us, knowing that we’ve helped youth make healthy decisions or changed their views on drugs.”
Rosecrance’s prevention teams serve thousands of children and youth in Illinois and Iowa with interactive programming that emphasizes life skills and the benefits of a drug-free life. They are active in sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade classrooms during the school year, often teaching lessons in health or physical education classes. Then, the team shifts gears and uses age-appropriate materials to connect with preschool and daycare children throughout the summer.
Over the years, prevention specialists have carved out a special niche as role models in their communities. They are often recognized by current and former students when out around town, and that brings deeper connections to families. And, specialists get to watch those children become socially conscious young adults.
“It’s good to see that what you taught had a positive impact and has been memorable for them,” said Rosecrance Central Illinois Coordinator of Prevention and Education Jennifer Jackson. “Seeing them grow into productive young adults over the years is always rewarding for us as educators.”