Pubdate: Tue, 23 May 2017 Source: Chatham Daily News, The (CN ON) Copyright: 2017 Chatham Daily News Contact: http://www.chathamdailynews.ca/letters Website: http://www.chathamdailynews.ca Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1627 Author: Ellwood Shreve, Page: A2 V.I.P. PROGRAM EVOLVES WITH DRUG CULTURE K of C Council 1412 shows its appreciation The drug culture has changed over the years, but an elementary school program, taught by Chatham-Kent police, has evolved to help keep local kids educated and safe. Special Const. Tamara Dick, one of three officers who teach the program to Grade 5 students across Chatham-Kent, said they focus on this age group "before they have to make some bigger choices in life . . . to give them a foundation as to how to make those choices." For years the program has discussed vandalism and shoplifting, as well as drugs and alcohol, but it also focuses on bullying, particularly cyberbullying, as well as prescription drugs, along with coping with peer pressure. "The issue with prescription drugs is that they're almost in everybody's medicine cabinet so they're easily available to any child of any age," Dick said. She added a pill or two from the medicine cabinet is something that can easily be missed. She said the drug aspect of the program is broken down into categories, including high caffeine energy drinks, smoking, alcohol, marijuana and opiates as well as different types of harder illegal drugs such as cocaine, crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. "We're now touching on fentanyl," she added. The special constable said many parents are not fully aware of newer, deadly drugs, such are carfentanil, including what it looks like or how it is taken. She said a booklet is provided to each student that explains the different drugs and it suggested they go over it with their parents. The special constable and some students and staff at Monsignor Uyen Catholic School, were recently recognized for their part in the program by the Knights of Columbus, Blessed Sacrament Council 1412, which has been a supporter of the V.I.P. program for the past 29 years. "We're very proud of that," said Grand Knight Steve Brent. He said holding an appreciation night was also designed let K of C members "gain a little bit more of an understanding about what we're investing in." Grade 5 students Sophia Botero and Bridget Hunt, both 10, were invited to present speeches they wrote about the program. "It was really exciting that every week, it's something new," Sophia said. "But, at the same time, you learn more and more and more." When asked how she feels about dealing with peer pressure in the future, she said, "I'm pretty prepared . . . I can just think back to my whole binder full of stuff." Bridget said, "I think the program showed me some stuff that I could use later on in life." She added there were things she didn't know that were very interesting. Bridget said this included "what drugs can do to your body, they can totally change you." Roger Lacharite, a Grade 5 teacher, said the value of the program is it teaches students about making the right choices in life. "Later in life, they will not always have their parents or teacher beside them and they will be more and more independent as the grow older, and they'll need to make those right choices on their own," he said. Lacharite noted the program also stresses the importance for students to lead a healthy lifestyle and encourages them to "take care of themselves physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually." Chatham-Kent Police Service Chief Gary Conn is quite familiar with the V.I.P. program, because he taught it when he joined the police service in 1998. "It's certainly a proactive approach for us to . . . instill those values and principals into our young people," he said. "That really sets the foundation for them as they grow older, then it reflects upon their character later in life." The chief said the program is also beneficial for introducing young people to the role police officers play in the community and helps break down barriers if some people are intimidated by the uniform. "We want children to be open and to want to feel free in approaching police officers and wanting to talk to police officers," Conn said.