Hopedale Jr.-Sr. High School Helping Empower Students

Brian Kiesman
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

Hopedale Jr.-Sr. High School is putting forth ground level efforts to teach about alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. As part of the school’s efforts, students are engaging in lessons during health classes which address these important topics. To tackle this issue, class lessons include resiliency-focused measures, which emphasize the importance of taking care of oneself. Students learn about the importance of physical activity, good nutrition, social and mental health, and preventing disease.
All health classes participate in lessons focused on Social and Emotional Learning.  The activities are aimed at increasing the competencies of self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. In addition, all students enrolled in health classes go on a “virtual field trip” about electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Discovery Education examine the science behind e-cigarettes and the impact they can have on teen’s health and well-being during this interactive student experience. Furthermore, the Hopedale Fire and Police departments are now teaming up with health classes for regularly scheduled visits. Presentation topics include legal, social, and health consequences of substance use, information on Hopedale Fire and Police statistics, refusal skills to make healthy decisions, case reviews, and student-centered activities.
At the 7th grade level, students participate in Project Here, a public-private collaboration to bring substance use prevention education to every public middle school in Massachusetts. Through integrated in-classroom and mobile learning experiences, Project Here educates students about the risks and consequences of using or experimenting with drugs, empowers them to help others, and gives them the tools they need to make healthy decisions.
The Hopedale Alumni Association awarded 10th grade health classes a grant to purchase “Edventi,” a digital Substance Abuse Prevention Education Curriculum. Students participate in dialog, research and assessment to critically investigate the science of drug use and the risks to the developing brain, while analyzing environmental influences that downplay harms and promote drug use behavior.  The course covers five topics: Tobacco, Marijuana, Addiction, Alcohol, and Opioids. Edventi aims to advance personal understanding and inform decision-making.
Health classes are designed with a goal of building the strength of students, rather than focusing on their anxieties or fears.  When students cultivate grit, perseverance, and resilience, they are likely to use decision-making skills to enhance their health.