For the past five years Deputy Michele Sampson has worked in the district and been a positive police presence as she walks the halls of every school and spends her lunch hours in the high school cafeteria to greet students and field their frequent questions. She is there to keep all of our students safe but she also works hard to keep them informed and educated. For our 6th graders, this means a dedicated curriculum that she leads each year called S.A.V.E: Substance Abuse Violence Education.
Over a series of six visits to all five elementary schools, Dept. Sampson covers various criminal and health related issues as a means to educate students at this critical age to the realities of these choices as well as their options. Topics taught and discussed during the program include drug, tobacco or alcohol use, methods of saying “no”, dealing with violence and providing students with tools to make good decisions in every day life.
Bursley 6th Grade teacher, Becky Steele, is especially thankful for the SAVE curriculum and says, “As students move on to Junior High and High School, they will be [unfortunately] more likely to encounter peer pressures, including those related to the use of drugs or alcohol, and violent or destructive behaviors. Pre-teaching students skills for dealing with these struggles, including skills for saying “No” assertively and for keeping themselves safe, sets them up for success in the future. In addition to this, students seem to be connected to technology and social media at a younger age now than they were even five years ago. These social interactions, with both their peers and strangers, expose them to countless temptations and pressures. Through the SAVE lessons, they are able to learn the legal ramifications of some choices they could make online and brainstorm safer or healthier alternatives.”
Dept.Sampson says that the most important part of this program is to encourage discussion and discovery with students as they learn and ask questions about the topics at hand. Students are encouraged to talk with their parents about what they learned in each session. They are also asked to not only think about the health-related consequences for drug, tobacco and alcohol use but the legal and social implications as well. She reminds students that it can be easy to ignore what might happen in your family and friendship circles when you are caught using and illegal substance but it can be especially difficult when extended family members find out as your parents determine a course of action and friends may be asked not to spend time with you. Having Dept. Sampson visit the classrooms, students are able to develop a sense of trust and they know she is there for them. “Having Dept. Sampson in our building once a week for six weeks helps students feel like they have the ear of and a relationship with a very important member of our community. We have been able to utilize that trust, respect, and relationship between Dept. Sampson and our students, having Dept. Sampson talk about legal consequences that can come with some of these choices and to reiterate with the students the importance of practicing the skills they have been taught in SAVE in all aspects of their lives.”
6th grader, Iam Brauning, is thankful for the SAVE program because, “All of the information about gangs and specific information about drugs and the impact that they have on our bodies was new to me.” “SAVE provides all Jenison students with the opportunity to see police officers as people, and to build a relationship that is meaningful enough that they can voice concerns, ask questions, and take away valuable knowledge. We are so thankful that Dept. Sampson is able to take time out of her busy days to invest in our children! They truly enjoy her visits and can’t wait for her to come back each week.”