Students listened and took part in presentations from law enforcement and health professionals during Healthy Decisions Day.
BY JASON PAFUNDISTAFF WRITER
READFIELD — Skyeler Webb said she learned a lot in school on Friday. But the Maranacook Community Middle School eighth-grader wasn’t talking about math, science or social studies.
Webb said she learned a lot about substance abuse and drugs during the school’s Healthy Decisions Day.
“It definitely lets us know what the dangers are,” Webb said. “I learned a lot about new drugs, what they do and the consequences.”
Throughout the day, students listened to and participated in presentations about coping, the effects substance abuse has on the brain and refusal skills. Activities included yoga, martial arts, trivia and interactive theater. Presenters included members of law enforcement, fitness instructors and health professionals.
Webb took part in an exercise with motivational speaker and humorist Randy Judkins. He presented a list of seven skills every graduate needs for success including juggling and tricks using hats.
Judkins told students the importance of listening and being aware of their surroundings at all times. He said he enjoys keeping students engaged and involved when giving them important life lessons that “float to the top.”
“I wanted to create something memorable for the students,” Judkins said. “I wanted to study and present a collection of skills based in character. It’s something students can learn as a complementary experience to the classroom.”
This was the second year Maranacook held a Healthy Decisions Day, but with all the news in the state about substance abuse, Principal Cathy Jacobs thinks the day’s activities are even more important.
She said the students are at an age where they are starting to understand that the decisions they make now have an impact on them for the rest of their lives.
“It’s really important for us to help them make good decisions,” Jacobs said. “Every day they are faced with different things, so we want to make sure they have the facts and that they understand what using substances can do for their future. It’s really (meaningful) now because of what’s going on in our society.”
School officials have been combing over data from a Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey the school received earlier this month, so Jacobs said they are able to pinpoint the specific areas where students need the most guidance.
“I think they think they know a lot, and they are exposed to a lot, so we think it’s our responsibility to give them the facts,” Jacobs said. “We have some pretty good data.”
State trooper Bernard Campbell offered lessons on substance abuse and how it affects one’s future, and during one of his presentations, students asked a lot of questions about heroin, which Campbell figures is due to the seemingly endless stream of heroin news.
“We are seeing a lot of people with drug use and the demand for it (is so high), so if we can get kids at this age to think about the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on their development, career choice and career path, it’s huge in helping them look at the big picture,” he said.
Campbell enjoys interacting with the students and hopes they can learn something from his lessons.
“If it helps one kid, I’ve done my job,” he said. “Maybe this will prevent them from getting hooked on a drug.”
Rebecca Reynolds, director of the school-based health center, said the presentations by Henry “Skip” Gates, whose son died of a heroin overdose in 2009, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney during the morning session made an impact.
“It was important to have them here and to have our eighth-graders meet these people and hear their story,” Reynolds said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude for them being here and our kids getting to hear their important messages.”
Reynolds said the goal of the day is to make sure the students get a message of prevention and to know they have the ability to make healthy choices in their lives.
The day concluded with students meeting with their advisory groups to discuss the day’s activities.
Jason Pafundi — 621-5663