Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jan 2003
Source: Manchester Journal, The (VT)
Copyright: 2003 New England Newspapers, Inc.


The threats of substance abuse and drug addiction are a growing concern in 
Vermont - not only for the human cost of physiological damage, but for the 
social costs of increased crime, fractured neighborhoods and eroded public 

It was more than 10 years ago that the first heroin deaths occurred in 
Vermont - a warning bell that was met by many public officials statewide 
who put their heads in the sand.

Today, statewide arrests of heroin dealers is on the increase, but the 
problem of dangerous drugs on the street will not be "solved" until the 
other half of the supply/demand equation is reduced.

Increasingly, schools are identifying their role in helping kids make safe 
choices - and research has shown that the younger a child is educated about 
dangerous and safe choices, the better chance they'll have of making good 

While schools can't reverse the effects of a negative home environment, a 
revolutionary program starting in Manchester and Dorset is adding to 
youngsters' arsenal of "resiliency-building assets" that will help them 
make smart decisions.

According to the program's developers, 40 resiliency-building factors have 
been identified that will help youngsters avoid tobacco, alcohol and other 
drug use, early sexual experimentation and violent behavior.

The more of these 40 assets a young person learns, the more likely they 
will build a strong and positive self image and possess the confidence and 
inner strength needed to refuse drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Not only that, but there is a peer training component that involves 
students helping other students learn these survival tactics.

This week, 14 seventh graders from Manchester Elementary-Middle School and 
the Dorset School took part in a three-day program entitled "Reaching Out - 
Peer Leaders for Asset and Substance Education."

These seventh graders will now go back to their schools and teach third and 
fourth graders what they learned.

Our communities are fortunate in that we are small enough to have avoided 
the large-scale drug trafficking found in neighboring Bennington and Rutland.

However, we cannot trust that our good fortune will last indefinitely.

It is, then, fortuitous that our area schools and supervisory union have 
taken the war on drugs to the level it needs to be fought: future consumers.

If peer pressure is an element that starts a youngster on the path of 
dangerous drug use, abuse and addiction - perhaps peer pressure from the 
opposite direction can prove successful.

As in any war, the foot soldiers have the most to lose.
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