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Independence High School students teach peers about dangers of prescription drugs, vaping


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – High school students involved with Preventing Emergencies Among Teens recently shared information regarding the dangers involved with prescription drug abuse and vaping with fifth- and sixth-graders at Independence Middle School.

PEAT is a student-based organization that works to educate fellow pupils about the harmful effects of substance abuse.

Jess Crooks, health and physical education teacher at Independence High School, is the PEAT facilitator, though she downplays her own role. Crooks said the program works because “you have younger students looking to their peers,” rather than being lectured to by adults.

The older students narrate a PowerPoint presentation and then engage their younger counterparts with games and group sessions. Crooks explained that the goal is to create a continuum of students learning and later joining as PEAT presenters. Each succeeding middle school class will then have allies at the next level to help them resist peer pressure and the lure of substance abuse.

PEAT formed last year with help from a Generation Rx grant that was shared between several districts. Although the grant was for a single year, Crooks said the initial funding laid a strong foundation for the program. “It’s easier than I thought it would be,” remarked Crooks.

Vaping, a more recent health concern, provided another impetus for continuing the program. According to Crooks, “Our primary purpose is to get into the classroom with students and to teach them about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and this year we felt compelled to add the vaping element.”

The program is being offered to all fifth- and sixth-grade health classes at the middle school, though Crooks hopes to expand the program to younger students in the future.

PEAT members were involved with the 2019 national Red Ribbon Week and even performed at a Cleveland Cavaliers game.



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