Port Alberni kids transitioning between elementary and high school will get a burst of drug awareness thanks to a new two-day program.
Yes 2 Know is a province-wide RCMP-led initiative that seeks to give youth the knowledge about how to say ‘no to drugs’ now.
The program goes beyond the DARE education that Grade 5 students receive.
The Port Alberni Yes 2 Know edition takes place from April 5-6 and is a partnership between the RCMP, the school district parent advisory council and sponsors like Valley Vision and Brent Manson’s office.
“It’s the Youth Empowerment Summit. ‘Know’ is for knowledge and we’ve broken that down further to the word ‘now.’ It’s important for kids to ‘know this stuff now’ so that they can make healthy choices now as opposed to waiting,’ said Central Island RCMP Cpl. Dave Cusson.
Cusson, who used to be based in Port Alberni, is with the drugs and organized crime awareness service in Nanaimo.
“That’s what the convention is about. It’s a highlight to kids at their vulnerable times, pre- and post-transition.”
The two-day event targets Grade 7s, Grade 8s and their parents.
“The first day is for all the Grade 7s in the school district. They’ll be participating in a full day of prevention education,” said Cusson.
“They’ll be going through a variety of keynote speakers, fun activities, food, they’ll all get a t-shirt, there will be prizes… it’s meant to be a highlight of their grade.”
Grade 7s will listen to keynote speaker Jesse Miller.
“He’s an expert in the world of online citizenship—how kids represent themselves in an online environment.”
Cusson said it’s important to get the Grade 7s before they move onto high school.
But its important for Grade 8s to learn the information too.
“They’re already post transition so their day is a little different,” said Cusson.
Some of the keynotes will stay the same, however.
“There will be a keynote about brains and brain development and another keynote talking about social belonging.”
Grade 8s will get educated on marijuana by criminology interns working with Cusson.
“They’ve been specially trained to talk about marijuana and decision making,” Cusson said.
“The Grade 8s have identified that that’s an issue—that drug (marijuana) is really starting to show itself.”
But Cusson wants to educate the entire community, not just the students, by hosting a community night on April 5 at 6 p.m.
“I’ve partnered with the district parent advisory council and they’re hosting a parent night for the community.”
The three-hour event will feature community resources and keynote speakers.
“Gary Anaka, the brain guy, is going to talk about how to connect to the teen brain,” said Cusson. Parents will also hear from Jesse Miller about how to create boundaries and expectations in their children’s online usage.
While drug awareness programs already exist for students in Port Alberni, Cusson sees this as a way to make a bigger impact.
“There is a drug prevention continuum going on here. DARE is our foundational drug awareness piece and then we build a piece after that called Being True and the [Yes2Know] convention kicks in in the middle,” said Cusson. The event is meant to spur on conversation outside of just the two days.
“After that, we have post-convention strategies for the kids in Grade 9, 10, 11.”