BAINBRIDGE -- A task force that began meeting last spring at North Putnam High School is moving forward with plans to help at-risk students in the community.
The group originally grew out of the Wellness Committee put together at North Putnam schools last year.
During that first meeting, Dr. Veronica Dorsch presented statistics about the number of teenage girls giving birth and the number of babies born to moms under the age of 15.
Other destructive behaviors discussed included delinquency, crime, alcohol and drug abuse.
"Indiana schools can't tackle these issues alone. We need the community to help with issues of teen pregnancy, high school dropouts and education struggles leading to those dropouts," stated Jason Chew, then dean of students at North Putnam High School.
"We have a lot of motivated people," added Chew as he turned over the meeting to Julie Mitchel and Cindy Huddleston, who ran a free weeklong summer camp for kids at Heritage Lake.
"The summer camp was a total, 100-percent success," stated Huddleston.
The idea behind the camp was to give kids something to do. Mitchel and Huddleston, who only had a short time period to plan the camp, began with 40 children signed up.
"By the end of the camp we have 90 kids and were turning some away because we didn't have enough adults to supervise," said Huddleston.
The camp focused on learning for life character building and had support from the Everlasting Foundation, Rural Transport and Heritage Lake POA, who offered the clubhouse area at no charge to the group.
This year, the women plan to extend the camp to two weeks with a long-term goal of making it even longer. They are also hoping to find a director with some camp exposure for this year's venture.
Other discussions during the evening took place regarding the Peer Project set to begin at North Putnam Schools this fall.
Principal Alan Zerkel and Chew decided to investigate the program last year. They told the North Putnam School Board that the program is similar to the High School Heroes Program, where senior athletes who have made a no smoking commitment go to talk with fourth grade students about positive behaviors.
"Research has proven that peers have a very powerful influence over each other," Zerkel told the board.
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.
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 www.peersproject.org or call NPHS at 522-6282.
Lastly, the group talked about a recent Drop-out Summit presented in Indianapolis.
They also discussed Indiana Department of Education Tony Bennett's $20,000 incentive for improving graduation rates.
"That money could go a long way in helping all these efforts," commented Chew.
Another meeting is planned next month and the date will be announced soon.
Anyone interested in participating in the group is welcome. Community members are welcome and encouraged to attend. For information about the task force contact Jason Chew at North Putnam High School at 522-6282 or email email@example.com