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Steering the path

After-school programs created to help students avoid drug, alcohol abuse

Bridget Manley

— Life could have been different for Zack Allen.

As it stands now, he is Sunset Elementary School principal and a Substance Abuse Prevention Program committee member.

But, take away some athletic activities in his teens, and Allen’s life could have been something else entirely, he said.

“If it weren’t for some activities in high school, I would have been more likely to go down the path” leading to substance abuse, Allen said.

He credits high school basketball for steering him away from potential drug and alcohol use.

With SAPP’s help, he seeks to provide similar alternatives to Sunset Elementary students.

“It doesn’t have to be a sport,” Allen said. “The key is getting kids involved in an activity : to provide a purpose.”

The risk for substance abuse increases at the high school level, Allen said, but building students’ interest in constructive activities at an early age helps reduce that risk.

It’s a proactive approach, Allen said – one that SAPP is backing financially.

Every year, SAPP gives money to local elementary schools for after-school activity programs.

“It’s an opportunity for kids to have something positive to do after school,” said Anne Eakins, Sunset Elementary counselor.

In December, third- and fourth-grade students from area elementary schools helped raise the funds by selling tickets to a pancake breakfast.

The students raised about $6,900 this year, said Becky Otis, SAPP secretary/treasurer, at a banquet held for the students in December.

East, Sunset and Ridgeview Elementary schools each received $1,000 from those funds, Diana Cook, East Elementary principal, said.

Each of the three schools chooses the programs it will offer during the after-school program.

Ridgeview Elementary staff said the school would probably host an after-school program this year but did not know the dates it would be offered. Administrators were unavailable for comment.

Sunset Elementary provides two five-week after-school sessions that include science experiments and physical fitness activities.

Students have signed up for the program to participate for the program’s second session, already in progress.

East Elementary used to host similar programs with SAPP funds. After the Boys & Girls Club of Craig came to town, the school changed its approach.

“Boys & Girls Club offers so many great activities,” Cook said. “They are such an asset to our community that we didn’t want to compete with them.”

Instead, school staff use SAPP funds to provide after-school tutoring for their third-graders.

“Some kids have some gaps in their learning,” Cook said. “We feel : that students need to succeed. This is a great thing that SAPP has allowed us to use their funds” for.

The tutoring program began in January and will continue until mid-March.

Enrollment is full.

But, if more school staff can teach the tutoring program, another session may open after Spring Break, Cook said.

“I definitely believe it’s something that will carry on for the future,” Cook said.

For more information, contact individual elementary schools.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com


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