While spending the school year learning and teaching topics regarding all aspects of drug and alcohol abuse, what better way to end the year than to celebrate together, students, teachers and police officers by going to Camp Joy? That’s what happened with the Bellbrook 8th grade class and three Sugarcreek Township police officers on April 28-April 29. The program “The Guide, a drug abuse prevention program, 2014 at Camp Joy” offers more than just the textbook teachings, but a more hands-on experience for life choices.
“We have pretty much gone away from the DARE program, it’s a thing of the past, because they are too costly,” Sugarcreek Township officer, Ron Gudgell said. “Also, it’s been proven that if we teach them [students] before high school the students can relate to drugs and alcohol issues more than starting in 5th or 6th grade when they really haven’t faced too much of the effects of drugs and alcohol yet.”
At the beginning of the school year, 8th grade students are offered a chance to become involved in the drug and alcohol awareness program and to sign up for the camp at the end of the school year. After completing a series of four to five guide classes, every student is eligible for the camp. The school is limited to the number of students that can participate. It is a first come-first-serve list, so students need to get their names on it as soon as possible. The cost is free to all participants and the camp is paid for out of the drug seizure funds through the Sugarcreek Police Department, which averages around $10,000 a year.
The camp is one and a half days where students are not allowed to bring cell phones, laptops, or any type of electronics. What? How can a kid survive in today’s world without their gadgets? Believe it or not, they don’t even miss them. The camp keeps them plenty busy and active. “I was surprised they [the camp] did so many activities that involved teamwork, trusting each other, and helping each other out,” said 8th grader and participator, Grace Burger. “In the end, I felt I could trust a few more people and I made a few more friends from staying in the cabins and stuff.”
The lessons learned throughout the new drug and alcohol awareness program allows students to see firsthand the effects of drugs and alcohol through lessons and field trips. “It’s not like we are shaking our fingers at them and saying, ‘Drugs are bad, don’t do them’” continued Gudgell. “They see if from all different prospective and they can thing from all different angles.” The program demonstrates their decisions not only affect them but also their families, friends and everyone around them. The first section deals with the law enforcement: it demonstrates what occurs when a person is caught, the arrest processes, detention facilities, dealing with attorneys and most of all, facing consequences. The second part of the lesson is the Juvenile Court process and the whole judicial process and how it all affects the financial strain of the family and facing a judge. Other aspects of the program discusses the health aspect of the problem and how drugs and alcohol effect a student’s body, decisions, choices and may make them feel alone.
“It’s most important that the kids get out of the lessons we teach them by practicing them. It’s kind of an opportunity for them to look at their values, influence their choices and that really no one can make them do anything that they don’t want to do,” Guidance counselor, Shelly Benson said. “The camp is a way to kick off that empowerment.”
This made the third year the school and the police department teamed together to take roughly 60 students to a camp to tie all the lessons learned into an overnight camp. Camp Joy provided a time for students, teachers and police officers to be equals and see each other in a different light.
“Unfortunately, our kids know someone they are close to or though some of the tragedies that we have had through the years, it just hits home,” said teacher, Ann Galle. “We want them to feel connected to each other and feel comfortable with what they are doing. By playing, eating and interacting with the teachers and police officers, it helps us all feel more connected and more comfortable with each other. That is what this camp does.”
The police department and the school district plan to host another camp in the following school year and continue the tradition. For more information regarding the drug prevention program or the camp, contact the Bellbrook Middle School’s main office.