This item originally appeared in the October 7, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.
By ERIN BASS
One out of every nine sixth graders in Lincoln Parish consume alcohol at least once every 30 days, according to recent surveys released by the Communities That Care, a support service run by experienced professionals in the field of prevention science to help communities.
Project Northland, designed to educate children ages 9-15 on the dangers and preventative measures of alcohol abuse, is coordinated by retired health and exercise science professor Dr. Tommy Grafton.
“The program would not be successful or even exist without what Tech provides here and the approval of the grant,” Grafton said.
The grant was approved by the office of research and development, but ultimately had to go through Tech President Dr. Dan Reneau.
“I believe the project is doing an excellent job,” Reneau said. “I think substance abuse is a part of society today and [it’s] important to have information explaining how to prevent it from ever occurring.”
Grafton said research shows if alcohol use is prevented by the age of 15, there is a significantly less chance the child will abuse alcohol when he or she is older.
The Louisiana Department of Hospitals and the Office of Addictive Disorders, Region 8 in Monroe, sponsors Project Northland.
“Louisiana Partners in Prevention along with the Office of Addictive Disorders funded the Tech contract for Project Northland to provide substance abuse prevention for sixth and seventh graders in Lincoln and Union Parish,” Bill Blanchard, regional prevention coordinator for the Office of Addictive Disorders, said. “We are also looking to expand the contract into Jackson Parish for sixth graders.”
Grafton said he needed volunteers to assist him with the project and thought educators would be the best bet.
Rhonda Boyd, an instructor of health and exercise sciences, Vicki Werner, a retired school teacher of A.E. Phillips, and Barbara Yarbrough, a retired school teacher of Lincoln and Union Parishes, are volunteer health educators that will teach the classes.
Werner said she got involved with Project Northland because of her love of children.
“I have always had a broad interest in things that undermined the success of young people and to strengthen them to make wise decisions,” Werner said. “Knowledge is our greatest weapon.”
Peer leaders are also trained to help the health educators teach the substance abuse prevention classes.
“I like to help people,” Raquel Higdon, a sixth grader from Simsboro School, said. “I think [this experience] will help me to stand up against drugs more.”
Project Northland classes began Oct. 1 and will run until the end of the school year.