Substance abuse by local students has been a growing concern for parents, the public, law enforcement and area municipal governments for several years.
Drug-awareness programs by the Flower Mound Police Department and citizen organizations, such as Winning the Fight (WTF), have called for action to address the problem.
On Feb. 10, the Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees approved an agreement to allow its students to attend McKinney ISD’s Serenity High School to help them complete their studies for graduation after having missed class time due to substance abuse.
LISD joins other participating school districts in partnering with Serenity, such as Pilot Point, Plano, Frisco and Garland.
The school was founded in 1999, and is open to students who have successfully completed a drug or alcohol treatment program. Students can take traditional courses at the school, study online or achieve dual credit. Currently, about 70 LISD students are in area rehabilitation programs.
LISD’s first-year Safe and Drug Free program named CHOICES (Choosing Healthy Options In Creating Excellence & Success) began searching for resources that promote positive and healthy decision-making by students under program coordinator Monya Crow.
“Last fall, I attended a meeting of educators, parents and citizens and the topic of current drug trends in schools came up,” Crow said. “I saw the opportunity to partner with the principal of Serenity High School who was in attendance.”
The two met and shared information which Crow then brought back to the school district to get the ball rolling.
Serenity provides a safe-haven and sober environment for students dealing with addiction, mental health or personal problems, who first complete a treatment program and work toward completing the requirements to obtain a Texas high school diploma.
A typical day at Serenity includes mostly computer-based instruction, alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous group time, recreation time and a community service requirement. The cost for participating districts is $85 per student per day. Students must also take two drug tests during a four-week period. The average length of a student’s stay is three months.
As a licensed professional counselor with almost 20 years of experience, Crow leads a two-pronged approach to supporting students in need. In addition to substance and alcohol abuse, CHOICES also addresses areas such as mental health and teen-dating relationships.
“Prevention and intervention is the charge of our office,” Crow said.
While intervention is critical, Crow said prevention is just as important.
CHOICES offers programs and activities in coordination with other school and community-based services. Efforts range from supporting the guidance counselors at LISD schools to partnering with law enforcement, hosting awareness weeks and providing information to educate students before they make a decision they may later regret.
“Part of our goal is to spark conversation and acknowledge these issues more,” Crow said. “We also make an effort to bridge communication gaps and dispel some myths.”
Serenity has graduated 233 students who, without the school and its program, probably wouldn’t have graduated.
“The incredible leadership at LISD led to the start of this partnership,” Crow said.
Addiction Awareness Day is March 22. WTF and CHOICES are teaming up to hold a community walk event that day at Briarhill Middle School in Highland Village to help bring awareness to this important issue.
“We are encouraging middle and high school students to put together walking teams for this event,” said Crow.
Student pricing is $10 each, which includes a T-shirt. Participating students can receive Community Service Points. Register at www.facebook.com/winningthefight.
For more information on the CHOICES program, visit www.lisd.net.