Drug education in Kentucky is on the move in more ways than one. Eastern Kentucky students in grades seven through 10 have been attending a new drug education program in a mobile classroom and using SIDNE® to drive home the point of the presentation.
The brainchild of nonprofit law enforcement group Operation UNITE, the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Appalachia High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), the On the Move! Program started up in December of 2013. Its goal was to offer a free drug education program on wheels through a mobile classroom that’s specially equipped and handicapped accessible.
Prior to On the Move’s scheduled arrival on campus, students take a written survey of their opinions and attitudes toward drug and alcohol consumption. During the presentation itself, students are again surveyed through an audience response system. The results of both surveys yield measurable data about before- and after-presentation perceptions, which is shared with the school. Schools then have hard data showing needs they will want to address in their student population.
Driving the point home with SIDNE®
This presentation takes about 40 minutes and is given to small groups of students. Afterward, students go into the school’s gym for activities centered on SIDNE®, Fatal Vision® Impairment Goggles and field sobriety tests, and the Distract A Match® game. It all makes an impact on students.
“The kids absolutely love it!” says Operation UNITE’s Carlos Cameron. “Student response has been overwhelming.”
While the presentation covers tobacco, alcohol, drug, and marijuana use, Cameron says that it’s the demonstrations that drive On the Move’s points home. “It’s a unique experience, it’s hands-on,” he explains. “It shows reactions while driving with drugs or alcohol in the system.”
To drive the point home even further, students are debriefed after the demonstrations to help them understand what they just experienced. Cameron knows the demonstrations have been successful when he sees changed attitudes during that discussion.
“We thought that eastern district students would be more accepting of marijuana than western district students, but it was just the opposite,” he says. “Students felt that marijuana was a dangerous drug [post-demonstration].”
The grant Operation UNITE landed to fund this program targeted two goals: 1.) to reach 1,500 students and 2.) to reach out to faculty members. Cameron points out that they’ve clearly exceeded these goals. In less than a year, On the Move! has reached 2,600 students and the program was designed from the start to help faculty members meet Kentucky Core Content standards in the areas of Practical Living and Health. School staff have been extremely supportive of the program.
“SIDNE® was a big hit and gave the students practical experience without the side effects of intoxicants,” said John Hale, principal of Somerset Christian School. “The tricycles and Fatal Vision® Goggles, coupled with the presence of a real live policeman, reinforced the experience. The program has certainly heightened the awareness of our students to dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.”
Cameron says that because the demonstration portions of the program are so practical and impactful, several new community partners now support the program. And the program, although targeted to eastern Kentucky, has not been confined to that area. It’s been presented at 26 school systems, both across the state and into Tennessee and Virginia.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better relationship with Innocorp,” Cameron says. “It was easy to tailor the messages to students [with Innocorp products].”
For example, he says that Innocorp provided an adjustable steering wheel and sliding brake pedals so smaller students could still use SIDNE®.
News of the program’s success and Innocorp’s part in it has spread even to Kentucky’s first lady.
“UNITE’s mobile classroom is a unique way to teach our children real-life instances of drug mistreatment,” said Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear. “We hope that it will go toward preventing future abuse and misues.”