Through our “Preserving the Next Generation” series, we have discussed the importance of addressing the intergenerational cycle of addiction and using the Search Institute 40 Developmental Assets to build protective factors in our youth. Schools also play a huge role in the lives of our youth and can be powerful in the prevention of youth substance use. One of my favorite quotes by Ron Edmonds, 1986 states “A school can create a coherent environment, a climate, more potent that any single influence – teachers, class, family, neighborhood, so potent that for at least six hours a day it can override almost everything else in the lives of children”.
Academics remains the forefront in any educational setting, however, as needs of students have grown, so has the ability of schools to address the social-emotional needs of students and families. One of the most successful programs in Pennsylvania that addresses the needs of students is the Student Assistance Program (SAP). Now in its 30th year, SAP helps schools identify students who are experiencing behavior and or academic difficulties that are posing a barrier to their learning and success in school. SAP offers support to those students and their families. The Council has been a proud Commonwealth Approved Trainer in the Student Assistance Program, training over 75 education professionals each year how to assist students and their families. Schools can identify students, through observable behaviors, who may need support in academics, attendance, health or behaviors. This comprehensive program is confidential, supportive and successful. Through SAP, students and families may be linked to school or community-based supports to help the student maintain a healthy and happy future.
Schools can also utilize the Search Institutes 40 Developmental Assets to preserve the next generation. Out of the 40 identified assets, school can foster 22 assets in students alone. Some schools develop 40 asset themes where they identify certain assets to foster throughout the month, or semester. They then plan universal programming to the students to teach about those assets. Schools also partner with Community That Care Coalitions who provide essential prevention programming to educate students on alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention. Prevention programs can encompass classroom presentation, student assemblies and school-based groups.
All these program teach youth skills and interventions to help support their health and success in their personal lives and academic careers. Common tools that are taught to students are positive decision-making skills, refusal skills, healthy relationships, and positive communication skills, as well as the dangers of substance use. Schools also can assist families with obtaining educational materials that address talking to youth about substance abuse, assistance with access to treatment providers, recovery support services and aftercare planning for students returning after treatment.
To learn more about services available in schools and what additional supports The Council offers to schools please contact us at 215-230-8218 ext. 5 or visit our website at http://councilsepa.org/programs/student-assistance/
Melissa Groden, MS, HS-BCP
Prevention and School Services Manager