Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`High Step' Offers Students Chance to Teach Program Helps Youngsters Ponder `Hot Issues'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`High Step' Offers Students Chance to Teach Program Helps Youngsters Ponder `Hot Issues'

Article excerpt

Tonya Gardner and Beth Hale face a tough audience every Tuesday - 28 boisterous eighth-graders eager to talk about anything but coping with peer pressure. However, the two seniors from Riverview Gardens High School stick firmly to their lesson plan.

"Your parents are out of town for the weekend, and your friend calls up and says, `Lets have a party.' What do you say?" Tonya asked.

"No!" said a few students.

"Yes!" chimed in others amid peals of laughter.

"Would it be as easy to say yes if you know there's going to be a lot of people there, something's going to get broken, that something's going to happen?" Tonya pressed.

"You could lock the door," a student suggested.

"I would tell them to go somewhere else," another offered.

"It's not going to be so easy to say yes next time," Beth pointed out. "You're going to think about it."

Tonya and Beth are part of Riverview Gardens' High Step, the name for High School Taught Elementary Program. Participants teach the district's elementary school students about peer pressure, self-esteem and making positive choices.

The program's purpose is to help the younger students stay away from drugs and alcohol, says sponsor Debbie Smith, director of student assistance at the high school.

"The kids don't go into actual drug education," Smith says. "They talk more about social skills and peer pressure.

"They're trained on how to handle hot topics such as problems at home."

High school students who want to be in the program go through a rigorous application process. Applicants must have at least a 2.0 grade-point average, have recommendations from three teachers, write an essay on why they want to be in High Step and be interviewed by students already in the program.

"They ask about their personal attitudes toward alcohol and drugs, their experience with children, their motivation for joining," Smith says. "They also ask about hypothetical situations."

The sponsor says she expects to have 30 students in the program this year.

Students who make the cut must take a two-day class offered by the National Council on Drugs and Alcohol.

Also, High Step members meet every Monday after school to work on lesson plans. …

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