GES students’ drug prevention and life skills training

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, March 7 2017

Central Island RCMP Cpl. Dave Cusson, who offers Strategic Prevention Services, was invited to Gabriola Elementary School (GES) by Principal Dave Travers on February 17, 2017, to make presentations to the Grade 5, 6 and 7 classes about drug prevention and the tools to be true to themselves.

“They got Being TRUE and Am I Good Enough? These are the two presentations they received last Friday. I’m the drug awareness coordinator for Central Island and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) coordinator,” says Cusson. “I spoke to the Grade 5 class about DARE material, as there are no DARE officers on Gabriola right now. I gave an overview and my criminology interns delivered Being TRUE and Am I Good Enough?”

  Cusson says the students connect to DARE and he builds a continuum of education on different concepts in different grades after DARE. “Being TRUE has a focus on alcohol use and marijuana use and the consequences on health and social parts of life. We also give decision-making tools and one is TRUE. The acronym stands for T: Train yourself about the facts; R: Reflect on the consequences, both positive and negative; U: Understand what your choices are; and E: Execute the best decision for your health.”

Cusson says the children were really engaged. Toby Russell, in the Grade 6/7 class says, “It was really cool, there were four groups. They gave each one a picture of somebody and asked each table what they thought that person’s hobbies and personality was like and no one got it right. One guy, named Nick, he had no arms or legs and he’s a motivational speaker and goes skydiving to show people what they can do. It looked pretty cool.” 

Russell talked about the TRUE program and also the GERMS program. “The G is for gratitude, E is for exercise, R is for random acts of kindness, M is for meditation and S is for sparks or the things you feel happy doing. They wanted to teach us so we don’t make wrong decisions so you can be a good friend and know what’s safe to do and what’s not. I think it’s about learning to look after yourself and learning to have healthy relationships. We saw videos of people who had done drugs at a young age and dropped out and we talked about how bad it was and one of the people who did that was an A student and wrestler. And now he can’t vote in the US.”

Cusson talks about how there are two meanings for TRUE. “There’s being true to yourself and using the TRUE model to make decisions. Am I Good Enough? is all about social belonging and we put that in the Grade 7 and 8 range. We know kids are transitioning to high school and that this is a vulnerable time for them. They’re coming from a small school to Nanaimo District Secondary School (NDSS) and they need some social belonging skills. We talked about self-esteem, how to keep self-esteem high, and the difference between real friends and convenient friends, and how they can fit in or belong. We talk about how to deal with negative stress and also how to deal with positive stress like taking an exam or playing well at a new sport.”

Keeping self-esteem high, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and having relationships are all part of keeping kids strong and resilient during the tough transition years. The GERMS program has been adapted by research done at Harvard University by Shawn Achor called the Happiness Advantage. 

“Then we give them a piece on how to meditate. Teachers love it, it helps with a lot of things. The last thing is how to be mindful, that concept we talk about being like a  superpower. If you can be mindful when you’re driving your car and get cut off, do you get angry? Or do you regulate your response and react differently. This helps with the transition to high school, which might be the biggest step at their young age, especially going from Gabriola to Nanaimo.”

Cusson says if kids continually get these messages growing up, usage rates are reduced and they’re better informed. He uses the example, “If you only get math in Grade 5, how good are you going to be at math in Grade 12? We keep the messages going through the grades because kids get so many external messages and we like to give them the facts to make the best choices for their health. Parents are so important because they can reinforce what we’re teaching.”

The partnerships with the schools are important too and Cpl. Dame at the local RCMP detachment helped facilitate the event.

“My big message to parents to is carry on. We support you and you support us. DARE is the foundation. We’re here because we care about the kids.”