Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Sept. 4 newspaper on Page A1.
McARTHUR — A version of a popular drug education initiative that finished out its first year at Vinton County High School will now be implemented at Vinton County Middle School.
Vinton County Prosecutor Trecia Kimes-Brown spoke with VCMS students Tuesday to kick-off her program, Driven to Succeed: Junior Edition.
Vinton County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Bob Grillo also attended the kick-off event to discuss the disciplinary repercussions drug or alcohol use can have on youth. Kimes-Brown noted at the kick-off event that recent studies point to e-cigarettes and vaping devices, gaining popularity among young people, being potentially more harmful than other tobacco products.
Last year, Driven to Succeed served as an optional program for local seniors in high school to be provided with drug education, screenings and counseling opportunities. A special incentive to enlist in the program was the possibility of winning a car in a chance drawing.
High school seniors who enrolled in the program had to consent to taking three random drug tests; the students’ legal guardians also consented to their student undergoing these tests. Other requirements involved maintaining a good grade, adhering to attendance goals and honoring the school’s Code of Conduct. Students were also required to write essays and fulfill community service hours.
Kimes-Brown pitched during the June Board of Education meeting the idea of bringing a version of the successful high school program to Vinton County Middle School.
“We’d really like to reach more kids,” Kimes-Brown told Board members. “Education and prevention are key.”
At their Aug. 12 meeting, members of the Vinton County Local School District Board of Education approved the “Driven to Succeed: Jr. Edition” program, commencing in the 2019-2020 school year.
Of course, the Driven to Succeed program would need to be tweaked to best service VCMS students. An obvious example: students at VCMS are not of age even to earn a learner’s permit, let alone a license to drive a car.
So instead of a car being the first prize, the winning VCMS student will consult with a travel agent to plan a vacation.
The prosecutor told Board members back in June she was “not sold” on the idea of conducting drug screenings for the middle school students, and that is reflected in this program.
This version of the program has a some differences from the high school program. For example, one requirement of the program VCMS students must fulfill is completing one “random act of kindness.”
VCMS students will also meet attendance and discipline record requirements in order to complete the program. Unlike the high school program, there isn’t necessarily a minimum GPA requirement. Students will also participate in educational courses offered during the school day, covering topics such as drug abuse issues, the importance of community and life preparation.