Pubdate: Tue, 23 May 2017
Source: Chatham Daily News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Chatham Daily News
Author: Ellwood Shreve,
Page: A2


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

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

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

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.