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Project Success/Crossroads Counselors: Helping youth with substance abuse issues
Learn more about what the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative is doing for APS students.
June 19, 2012
Debbie Medina is a Crossroads Counselor at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque. She doesn't handle scheduling or career advice. She's here for a very specific reason: educating kids on substance abuse and helping students with drug issues overcome their problems in order to successfully further their lives and educations. Crossroads Counselors all have master's degrees, school counselor licenses and training in substance abuse counseling.
There are nine Crossroads Counselors at APS high schools. Seven are funded by the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative. "We are in a society where no one is untouched by the abuse of substances and drugs," says Pauline Anaya, Project Success coordinator for APS. "Children younger and younger are using. Project Success is a program that is needed at this level." Societal changes along with pressure from peers and media means that drug and alcohol prevention and intervention are more important than ever.
More information on Safe Schools/Healthy Students is available at its website:
Last school year, Medina saw about 70 students for one-on-one counseling, but her presence reaches every student at Rio Grande. She implements the Project Success program at the school as part of her role as a Crossroads Counselor. "We go into all the health classrooms and we do two 90-minute classes and educate them on the effects of drugs and alcohol on their brains and bodies," says Medina. She also talks about coping skills, ways to deal with peer pressure and where to go for help.
Medina always shares a particular piece of information that most students are surprised to hear: "Not everybody is using drugs. There are more kids that are healthy and completing school than are using drugs." That knowledge is a powerful antidote to peer and media pressure to use drugs and alcohol.
Parent Involvement Program
When a student gets caught on campus with drugs or alcohol, the Crossroads counselor is called in. Medina is often able to offer students an alternative to the standard 5-day suspension. It's a shorter suspension combined with counseling sessions for the student and parent. The Parent Involvement Program (PIP) has helped get many students back on track by talking with their families about communication, problem-solving and the effects of drugs.
By the Numbers
Project Success measures its success by the numbers. "We follow an evidence-based, research-based program. Because of that, we have a national trainer that comes out and trains us on the exact elements of the program and the strategies that we use," says Anaya. Surveys show that Project Success is giving students the tools they need to resist substance use. Results show that students report significantly less desire to use drugs or alcohol after participating in the classroom presentations. The same trends are seen with the PIP students. "We hope it helps students think about the effect it has on their future and the impact on their lives," says Anaya.
Medina is proud of her work as a Crossroads Counselor. "The kids know that it's safe here. They trust me enough to bring their friends in. They trust me enough to let me know what the real issue is, why they are using," she says. News about the program has spread throughout the district. "Those schools that don’t have Crossroads Counselors are always checking with me to see if there's any way they can get somebody," says Anaya.
The SSHS grant is funding Project Success through next school year, but school administrators are already looking to the future beyond that. "Next year is the last year of the funding. They're already getting very concerned," says Anaya. Medina hopes that her work will be able to continue. "My administrators are glad I'm here. I'm hoping that they find some way to keep us," she says. The students she has helped are hoping for the same thing.