March 04, 2009 Edition

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Program takes ATOD Coalition's
efforts into Lawrence Co. schools

Amber Adams, program coordinator for the Positive Action Program, which is part of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition, works with fifth graders at Hillcrest School in Lynn. The focus of the Positive Action Program is to reduce underage drinking.
Submitted Photo

Gretchen Hunt

The Lawrence County ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) Coalition has been working for years to address alcohol and drug abuse and educate residents on the effects of using different substances.

The addition of the Positive Action Program gives the coalition another tool to complete that work. The program, which focuses on reducing underage drinking, is offered in all five of the county's K-12 schools.

Amber Adams of Walnut Ridge was hired in November as the program coordinator and works with students in fifth grade, seventh and eighth grade and high school health classes.

Adams, who is a Walnut Ridge High School and Arkansas State University graduate, has worked with local students for several years, serving first as an employee of the Lawrence County Library and then as the education reporter and Newspapers in Education coordinator at The Times Dispatch. She is married to Clint Adams and is the daughter of John and Cloyis Daughhetee, also of Walnut Ridge.

Adams said the curriculum is geared in different directions for the different age groups.

The fifth grade lesson plan is based on the ABC's of making positive decisions ~ Academics, Behavior and Character.

"It teaches them to make positive decisions at school, as well as at home and with friends," Adams said.

The middle school program is a drug-education program, geared toward teaching kids how to handle a situation if drugs are presented to them, as well as the effects of drugs and gateway drugs. Adams said this curriculum includes a story about a drug user and how his life changes because of the drugs.

"The kids are very interested," she said. "I'm getting lots of feedback."

The high school information is referred to as the "Who Am I" kit.

"It leads the kids to find their self-identification, who they want to be and how to achieve those goals," Adams said. "It teaches them how to make the right choices."

Adams said the program is all about giving the students the ability to think about a situation, what their decision should be and what the ramifications could be.

"The program is designed to help youth make positive choices including wearing your seatbelt, don't text and drive, don't speed, and of course, drugs and underage drinking," she said. "We are hopeful that the addition of the Positive Action Program will help the coalition meet its goal to reduce underage drinking."

Adults to be campaign focus

An upcoming project that local residents should be seeing soon is a countywide media campaign concerning underage drinking that is aimed at adults. Radio and newspaper ads, billboards and banners will teach parents and other adults about the risks of underage drinking and of being a provider.

Adams works directly with Alison Oglesby, the coalition's project director for its Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant, which focuses on underage drinking.

The two recently attended the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America Leadership Forum Feb. 9-12 at the National Harbor Gaylord National Resort.

They participated in group sessions with a variety of speakers including a representative of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

"She got us fired up," Adams said. "She was very motivational. She said, 'I can stand up here and talk, but you are the ones doing the work out in the schools and communities.'"

There were also several break-out sessions, and Oglesby said she attended one on social host laws that had a major impact on her.

"There is no statewide law in Arkansas that holds adults accountable if they host a party and alcohol is served to underage attendees," she said. "We learned that a law can be passed within a city or a county that makes it a more serious offense than contributing to the delinquency of a minor."

Adams also cited a session called "It's not the drinking, it's the consequences," which focused on both reducing underage drinking and teaching about responsible drinking for adults.

"We are trying to prevent underage drinking, binge drinking and alcohol abuse by both youth and adults," Adams said. "Even when someone is 21 and able to drink legally ~ they still need to be responsible."

While in the D.C. area, the two met with Sen. Mark Pryor and were able to update him on work being done in the county. They also met with a representative of Marion Berry's office.

Adams said they received positive feedback from both offices that they believe the work being done is important and should receive continued funding.

Adams said knowing she is making a difference is the most fulfilling part of her work with the coalition.

"I know I'm making the kids think about things that they don't think about on a regular basis," she said. "If they sit down and think about the consequences, they're going to make better choices."

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