Here to help and serve – Y.E.S.S.
By Lynne Marsala Basche
Alcohol, social media, bullying, drugs, sexting – these are just some of the challenges that students face today. It can be overwhelming especially when these pressures shift and new ones surface faster than they ever have. Douglas County, however, is fortunate to have the Y.E.S.S. program in place to reach students and their parents in a positive way.
Y.E.S.S. began in 2009 and is a custom curriculum for, and run out of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The program was developed to align with state guidelines and has the capability to evolve as trends change. With a mission to teach students in the community how to recognize and manage difficult situations, as well as educate parents on what kids are facing today, Y.E.S.S. is a valuable community resource.
According to program coordinator Phyllis Harvey, Y.E.S.S. is successful in part due to its partnership between law enforcement, schools, and the community. In every Douglas County high school plus Valor Christian, School Resource Officers (SROs) are present to forge positive relationships with the students, help when problems arise, work on safety and security issues, and educate the community. Also, SROs are trained to keep current with school trends by working with other law enforcement agencies. While middle schools do not have dedicated SROs, the companion high school SRO is responsible for that facility.
Y.E.S.S. teaches sixth through eighth graders two topics per grade for a total of six hours over the course of a year. The three topics of relationships, the Internet and drugs are broken down into sub-categories, and each lesson is foundational, which means that sixth graders receive an introduction to a topic, and then as they move to seventh and eighth grades, the theme builds and is explored at a deeper level. The lessons are designed to keep students engaged, and they are updated every summer to reflect current trends. All Y.E.S.S. lessons incorporate coping skills, and the information is geared toward suicide prevention, although that is never stated. Interestingly, Harvey noted that law enforcement personnel are one of the top three sources of credible information kids believe, which is one of the benefits of having Y.E.S.S. in schools.
When asked how parents can get involved, Harvey suggested they attend the free parent academy programs offered through Y.E.S.S. Digital safety, substance abuse, and emotional/physical safety are some of the issues covered. Parents should also talk to their children about what they are learning in school and arm themselves with knowledge.
Harvey shared that Sheriff Tony Spurlock’s philosophy revolves around being proactive instead of reactive. Prevention and education are critical components in keeping kids safe and equipped with the tools they need to be successful in life. “We’re so much more than getting the bad guys off the streets,” noted Harvey.
To learn more about the Y.E.S.S. program, visit http://www.dcsheriff.net/school-safety/youth-education-and-safety-in-schools-y-e-s-s/.
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