News

Mentors keep kids away from drugs

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

Folks in Federal Way are banding together to prevent drug abuse in children who are so young, they may have never even heard of substances like LSD, heroin or cocaine.

The Wonderwood Prevention Coalition aims to prevent future drug use in elementary and middle school children in the area surrounding Illahee Middle School. Parents and PTA members at Enterprise, Rainier View, Lakeland, Sherwood Forest and Panther Lake elementary schools, as well as Illahee Middle School, are involved in the project.

Enterprise has already begun an effort with a cross-age peer mentoring program called Friends Incorporated. Nine volunteers from Illahee come to Enterprise every Thursday during the last hour of the school day and meet with their “buddies,” the students who they mentor. Each volunteer works with three younger students.

“Everybody that needs one gets a friend and gets a positive role model and somebody they can talk to. I think that’s what it’s about,” said Hanna Moore, an Illahee seventh-grader who volunteers with the program.

The older students, in sixth and seventh grades, are Enterprise alumni who volunteer for their role as mentors. Elementary students who are identified as “at risk” are chosen for the program by teachers and counselors.

“Sometimes kids deliver the same message to other kids that adults would deliver, but sometimes the kids listen to other kids more than they would adults,” said Enterprise school counselor Stacy Traylor.

Students at risk of drug abuse can be identified by a number of factors before they’ve ever used drugs, said Nicole Moore, Wonderwood project coordinator and certified drug and alcohol counselor.

Some risk factors include stress, poverty, behavioral problems, low test scores and a lack of involvement with the school community, Moore said.

“Just alleviating the pressures that they are feeling is preventative,” she said.

Mentors provide a positive role model for the children, listen to them, read with them and play math games. They are taught to be good listeners and to talk to the children without judgement, Moore said.

“They’re trying to keep them connected and feeling good about being in school and making healthy choices,” she said. “Prevention is so broad, you can really do a lot of different things.”

Moore also helps at-risk youth and their families by connecting them with community resources.

Blake Hansen, a sixth-grader who mentors younger students at Enterprise, said it’s fun to work with his buddies. Two of his buddies need math help and one of his buddies is in the special education program.

“I go to his class and help him talk to other kids,” Hansen said of his special-ed protege. “He doesn’t have any friends, so I try to be a friend for him.”

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Learn more:

For more information or to get involved with the Wonderwood Prevention Coalition, call Nicole Moore at (253) 831-6596 or e-mail nmoore@fwps.org.

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