May 6, 2009 Edition

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Betty Gregory, nurse at Williams Baptist College, speaks with children during the Reach Out Now program held at WBC on April 28.

ATOD Coalition hosts
Reach Out Now event

More than 375 Lawrence County fifth and sixth grade students met on April 28 in the Southerland-Mabee Center at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge for the Reach Out Now National Teach-In Initiative.

The initiative was part of Alcohol Awareness Month activities and was sponsored by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) Coalition of Lawrence County organized the local program. High school students from the county led energizers as students arrived at WBC. Students were entertained by Travis Eades, a Lawrence County native and professional musician currently residing in Jonesboro.

Students from Black Rock, Hoxie, Sloan-Hendrix and Walnut Ridge campuses attended the program.

"With underage drinking being a serious public health issue in Lawrence County, the Reach Out Now program was a local attempt in part of a nationwide effort to get the prevention message out to children at a young age before a decision is made to drink," Joyce Rose, chair of the ATOD Coalition, said.

Students were divided into small group sessions led by 25 adult volunteers from Lawrence County who represented various sectors of the community. The leaders used a scripted lesson plan to describe the effects of alcohol on the brain and body and led students through discussions to identify effective alternatives to using alcohol. The students then brainstormed ways that they can get the message out about the risks of underage alcohol use. Word searches and jumbled word activities were used in the presentations to involve students.

As a final activity, students viewed a DVD entitled "The Zoo," a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) production. At the conclusion of the program, students were treated to lunch provided by the dietary services of Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

"Part of the mission of the ATOD Coalition is to promote collaboration among community leaders on prevention and educational programs and activities for the purposes of awareness, eliminating risky behaviors and promoting healthy lifestyle choices and outcomes," Rose said. "The Reach Out Now program provided an opportunity for this collaboration and educational effort."

The ATOD Coalition meets monthly at the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative in Walnut Ridge. For more information about the coalition or to get involved, contact ATOD Project Director Alison Oglesby at 886-7717 or 870-759-1814.

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