ROACHDALE -- Last spring administrators at North Putnam High School sent out a call for concerned parents, teachers and organizations to come together to discuss student at risk behaviors.
One result of those meetings is the implementation of a program called The PEERS Project (Peers Educating & Encouraging Responsible Sexuality). Dr. Veronica Dorsch told the group about the program, which her stepdaughter was participating in at North Central High School.
Principal Alan Zerkel and Assistant Principal Jason Chew decided to investigate the program based on peers educating peers about positive values.
"This program is similar to the High School Heroes Program, where senior athletes who have make a no smoking commitment go to talk with fourth grade students about positive behaviors," explained Zerkel at a recent North Putnam Community School Board meeting.
"Research has proven that peers have a very powerful influence over each other," he added.
In the PEERS Project, adults are trained to mentor and work with selected peer mentors who abstain from premarital sexual involvement and drug use and are committed to that lifestyle.
The project includes instructional materials for 12- to 18-year-olds in both school and community-based settings. There are video vignettes, interactive skits, role-playing and discussions that supplement research-based scripted lessons.
Some of the video vignettes include a lesson on media influences, teen pregnancy and parenthood and assertiveness techniques. Others deal with friendship and peer pressure, sexually transmitted diseases and linking drugs to sex.
Topics about what love really is, healthy relationships and learning to love are also included.
High school students see a smart love video, lesson about love that lasts a lifetime and sexually transmitted diseases.
Statistics from The Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that after funding for abstinence education was allocated by Congress in 1996, the birth rate among teens dropped 26 percent from 1991 to 2001. Births to unmarried 18- and 19-year-olds also declined during this period.
The CDC also says schools that teach students how to use contraceptives have higher pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates than schools that provide a clear and consistent abstinence education intervention.
Among teenagers who are sexually active, one out of four has at least one STD, and two out of five females get pregnant.
Compared with their non-sexually experienced peers, sexually active adolescents are more than twice a likely to use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs; perform poorly in school; and have a less positive outlook on future vocational possibilities.
The program is just getting rolling at North Putman and much more information will soon be available.
For information about the PEERS Project check out their Web site at www.peersproject.org or call NPHS at 522-6282.