Schools Aim to Steer Kids from Drugs Program Teaches They're 'Too Good' for Them

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Sneller Daily Herald Staff Writer

For years, adults have told kids they need to say no to drugs and alcohol.

The message gets through to some. But others are undaunted by warnings of what the substances could do to their bodies.

Too Good for Drugs takes a different tactic.

The anti-drug program encourages kids to participate in drug- free activities and focuses on building character.

The idea, of course, is that young people will become "too good for drugs."

Educators and police officers from Naperville, St. Charles and West Chicago participated in training sessions this week to learn about the program, which will replace the controversial Drug Abuse Resistance Education this fall in many schools.

Too Good for Drugs was developed by the Mendez Foundation, a Tampa, Fla.-based organization founded by trucking company owner Charles Mendez.

Mendez created the foundation to help families and children improve their lives. His children took over management of the group after he died in 1967.

In 1975, Charles Mendez Jr. refocused the foundation. Rather than helping children who already were in trouble, he wanted to concentrate on prevention.

He enlisted a core group of staff members to create Too Good for Drugs, and they helped spread it to more than 2,000 school districts across the nation.

The program works, Mendez Foundation Executive Director Cindy Coney said, because it is research based.

Too Good for Drugs bases its curriculum on the nonprofit Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets.

"A lot of times we study people who have the problem," Coney said. "What Search Institute did is look at the traits of children who are successful."

Those traits include family support, positive peer influences, quality time spent at home and peaceful conflict resolution skills.

The more traits the children have, Search Institute says, the less likely they are to use drugs.

Too Good for Drugs developed five components communities can use to help children achieve those assets. They are goal-setting, decision-making, bonding with others, identifying and managing emotions, and communicating effectively.

The 10-week program uses those components as its focal point.

At least one fifth-grade teacher from nearly every Naperville school attended the training sessions, as did police officers who will be teaching the curriculum.

Teachers attended so they could learn more about bringing the curriculum into other parts of the classroom.

The police officers also participated in an all-day session designed to "teach them how to teach."

"This curriculum is only as good as the person who delivers it," Coney said, "We want to make sure these police officers feel comfortable with the lessons. …