Drug Awareness Week!

Regent Park Focus and the 2011 Drug Awareness program has started. This year is we collaborated with Sprucecourt Public School and it has allowed students to not only develop knowledge and awareness about drugs but also expand on their creativity. The aim of the program is to inspire local schools such as Sprucecourt to engage students in learning more about drugs using participatory arts based approach. The program aims to promote awareness of the negative harms associated with drug abuse to students living and attending school in the Regent Park community. Similar to previous, we started the program with a school assembly featuring a panel presentation of speakers who talked about their experiences dealing with drugs, which was held on January 6th, 2011.
Motivational panel speakers included familiar guests such as; Cpl. Heather Dickonson who is from the RCMP Toronto West and is the Detachment Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Coordinator. Addiction Therapist Andrew Galloway was also there this year to share his powerful story. Andrew’s story was very empowering because he was a hockey player and than hung out with bad friends and became addicted to drugs. He told everyone that he had no one to turn to for help except his mother. Now Andrew who is a recovering addict, completed the Addiction Program at McMaster University by finishing at the top of his class and was honoured with the Award of Excellence for Outstanding Academic Achievement. Andrew believes that the goal of an intervention is to help the addict make an informed decision about going to treatment. It is NOT a confrontation but rather those involved describing in a loving and caring way how the addict´s behaviour is affecting those doing the intervention.
Tom Regher, from CAST Canada, (Come Sit Together) was also a passionate speaker and loves speaking to students about the awareness of drugs. Tom is an engaging and compassionate speaker with an important message for workers dealing with addiction and those who must cope with the strain it causes. CAST Canada helps professionals and corporations better understand the role trauma and unresolved grief in, addictions, homelessness, chronic unemployment, mental illness and other concerns through the coordination of workshops, trainings and keynote speaking throughout Ontario and across Canada.
Another favourite who was one of the panel speakers was Caroline Swinson from MAAD, (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Carolyn, her husband Richard and daughter Emma became involved in MADD after the death of Rob, the eldest of their three children. Rob was killed on February 12th, 1993 almost 12 years to the day Carolyn’s father had been killed, also in an alcohol-related crash. Carolyn continues to make a huge difference in the lives of many people from her tragic situation. In 2001 she was very honoured to receive a Volunteer Award from the City of Toronto, the Ministry of Transport’s Road Safety Achievement Award, and has also received a Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award and a Queen’s Jubilee Medal, accepting the awards on behalf of all the wonderful volunteers of MADD Canada. It was interesting to see the effects of alcohol such as vision impairment when Carolyn brought special goggles. Two teachers wore the glasses and could not walk in a straight line. The goggles are a great example of the effects of alcohol.
We also had two new speakers including Jennifer Juszczuk who is a councillor in Youth Addiction and Concurrent Disorders Service at CAMH.
Esther Linare was also an inspirational speaker because she was a former user when she was a youth. She has overcome a lot of tragic experiences when she was a teenager. Nevertheless, she empowered herself by going back to school and now works with as a social service worker and mentor with street involved youth.
The students were really amped when they were able to watch a eclectic performance by the first place winners of the City of Toronto Stomp completion, Bucc N Flvr. The dance group did not only perform but also gave an inspirational message about how important it is to do things you are passionate about such as dancing and stay away from drugs. Thanks to Bucc N Flvr for giving away their official t shirt to a lucky student.
The students were extremely star struck when they received a visit from two cast members Sam and Jahmil from Degrassi. Degrassi is a hit Canadian show which has shown many episodes related to teen peer pressure, drug use and healthy living. Sam and Jahmil who are currently on the 11th season of Degrassi spoke about the importance to keep busy doing things you love doing because that way, you won’t have time to get into things can hurt you such as drugs. They share a passion for acting and have no interest in doing drugs. They inspire to be good role models in the media and television for youth.
The students were inspired and moved by the experiences and stories of the speakers. This year, the students were able to participate in a deep discussion and ask more questions because the speakers went to visit the students in their classes after the assembly.
The school is hearing a fact every morning about Drugs. I am having so much fun helping out and connecting with the students and teachers Sprucecourt. The students are also being filmed as they work on their Drug Awareness art projects. Currently, the students are working on a wide array of student led fun and creative projects such as; skit making, poster making, dance, raps, song writing, poetry, creative writing, radio public service announcements, and video production. This is a mini competition which will also incorporate the theme of drugs and healthy living. Students are preparing their art pieces and performances by working in small groups as well as with a buddy or as individuals. After their projects are completed, students are going to be provided an opportunity to perform and display their projects at a Drug Awareness Community Celebration assembly event where family members, dignitaries and members of the community will come out to support the students work and hear what they have to say about drugs.
I am beyond ecstatic to see the student’s final performances, art work and speeches at the Drug Awareness Community Celebration assembly event on February 15th.

~*Michele Peter*♥~

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