The Star-Herald

Students learn about drug prevention, personal safety through interactive workshops

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On Thursday, May 31, Kim Parent gave seventh-grade students a task that seemed simple enough: move through a short obstacle course by jumping in and out of car tires, running around safety cones, hopscotching and then jumping rope as fast as possible. 

Students quickly completed the obstacle course the first time around, enjoying themselves as they competed for the fastest time. But the second time around, they often stumbled and held onto the cones for balance and appeared disoriented while they hopscotched and jumped rope thanks to the “foggy goggles” they wore.

Parent, a community outreach coordinator for Power of Prevention, held her “foggy goggle” workshop at the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Wieden Gym as part of the first annual Aroostook Youth Prevention Day. She wanted students to realize how impaired individuals become when they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Many people think that if they concentrate hard enough while impaired they can still walk or drive alright. But the truth is that all of you took six to eight seconds more to go through the course with goggles than you did without,” Parent told the students. “That’s because when you’re impaired, the neurotransmitters in your brain slow down and you can’t perform your best.”

Three-hundred eighty three seventh-grade students from 11 County schools spent most of the day participating in workshops that aimed to teach them about the negative effects of drugs and alcohol, as well as about healthy lifestyle habits, mental and emotional health, social media and personal empowerment.

The “Foggy Goggle” was one of many workshops that gave students an interactive way to learn about drug impairment. Blake Senal, 12, of Fort Fairfield Middle School, said that he immediately saw a difference in his performance after putting on the goggles.

“Some things seemed a lot smaller and more blurry and I couldn’t tell where anything really was,” Senal said. “It showed me that being drunk makes it harder for people to do things that are usually easy.”

Annalise Jandreau, 13, of Caribou Middle School said that while wearing the goggles she noticed that objects appeared closer or farther away than they actually were, which affected how she completed the obstacle course.

“I had to pay more attention to where I was going,” Jandreau said. “It was scary and it made me realize that I don’t want to have that experience in real life.”

Parent, who also teaches high school students as part of the Aroostook County Action Program’s Prime for Life classes, tried out the “foggy goggle” activity for the first time during Aroostook Youth Prevention Day.

“We thought that this activity would be a new, fun way for students to learn how alcohol and substances affect people physically and emotionally, and hopefully discourage them from ever trying to drive or getting in a car with someone who is under the influence,” she said.

ACAP partnered with many community organizations such as the Aroostook Mental Health Center, County Physical Therapy, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Pines Health Services, Aroostook Band of Micmacs and Northern Lighthouse to host the 22 workshops. The daylong event was an opportunity for all presenters to teach teens about the consequences of drug usage and poor health choices early before they enter high school and become faced with potentially life-altering decisions.

“When we talk to teens like the intelligent people that they are and give them this information early, we can help them make decisions that allow them to be successful in their lives,” Chris Haskell, ACAP community education specialist, said.

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