Seaford FFA trained to be peer-to-peer mentors
SEAFORD, Del. — The FFA Chapter at Seaford High School in Sussex County, Del., is the first in the nation to be trained as peer-to-peer mentors to provide Botvin LifeSkills Training.
The project is part of a statewide drug abuse awareness and prevention effort, which will be kicked off in September as “Seaford Goes Purple.”
Last year, 308 lives were lost in Delaware to drug-related overdoses.
Several members of the Seaford FFA were volunteering at the Delaware State Fair in July when the opportunity to become mentors was presented, and they agreed as a chapter to do it.
Eleven students, including one who is not an FFA member, met at the high school for three days of training in August.
They will be going into class at Seaford Middle School with an adult trainer, one day a week for 16 sessions, perhaps starting in January.
Grants Manager Lisa Coldiron said organizers are counting on these students to be leaders in this whole initiative.
“They will be ‘Purple Ambassadors’,” she said. They can come up with other “purple” activities, such as a prom, for which they may apply for mini grants of up to $500.
A grant obtained by the Sussex County Health Coalition covered the mentor training, a stipend for these mentors at the beginning and end of the year-long program, and any materials needed.
Sponsors include Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Discover Bank, Highmark, AmeriHealth and Nanticoke, Beebe and Bayhealth hospitals. WBOC is a media sponsor.
The emphasis on purple stems from a visit by basketball star Chris Herren to a high school in 2011 where several students were wearing purple shirts as a reminder of their pledge not to use drugs or alcohol.
A recovering addict, Herren then established The Herren Project, a non-profit foundation that assists individuals and families struggling with addiction.
Abigail Wile, a senior and Seaford’s incoming FFA vice president, explained what her group will do. “The goal is to inform students about drugs and their effects, how to say no and how to be assertive. Also, we’ll have lessons on self-image and self-esteem… things some parents don’t get to teach their children.
“We will reduce the stigma about addictions, giving those in recovery a chance. We’ll emphasize that it’s okay to get help.”
The program will also teach students self-management skills, general social skills such as how to deal with stress, anxiety and anger, and how to communicate effectively, along with drug and violence resistance skills.
As a result, students are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors in the future.
Wile said she is excited to get to go teach middle schoolers. “I hope they are receptive. I hope everyone has a good time and that, at the end, middle schoolers have a good experience and learn something they can take with them and use throughout their lives.”
Developed by Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, a leading expert on substance abuse prevention, the Botvin LifeSkills Training program is being used in 39 countries around the globe.
It has been proven effective at reducing tobacco, alcohol, opioid and illicit drug use by as much as 80 percent.
Rather than merely teaching information about the dangers of drug abuse, the Botvin program promotes healthy alternatives to risky behavior.
Lindsay Hughes, University of Delaware Extension Educator, has been working through the 4-H program to present the Botvin program to students during and after school in Sussex and Kent counties.
She recently completed a two-day train-the-trainer session in New York. She has trained high school teachers, but the FFA group was her first experience training students to teach the program. “I’m excited to see how the peer-to-peer interaction works,” she said.
Seaford High’s new principal, Jason Cameron said, “This is a great opportunity for students and will make a great bridge between students at the high school and middle school. I think it will be received well. The classroom teachers will ‘prime the pump’ and the middle school students look up to the high school students.”
Matt Cohee, FFA advisor and ag teacher, said he is excited to partner with the University of Delaware, 4-H and the other sponsors.
FFA is all about a healthy lifestyle, he added.
It helps students avoid being in situations that lead to exposure to unhealthy lifestyles.
FFA members will help with “Seaford Goes Purple” at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11 when Chris Herren shares his journey from addiction to recovery and hope at Crossroad Community Church in Georgetown, Del., where hundreds are expected to attend. Herron will visit Seaford High School and Seaford Middle School for assemblies on Sept. 12.
For more information, visit www.seafordgoespurple.org.
A similar initiative, “Talbot Goes Purple,” will be held in Talbot County, Md., with a kick-off at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 at the Talbot County Courthouse in Easton, and community events scheduled Sept. 25 and 26. Visit talbotgoespurple.org to learn more.
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