It’s the most wide-reaching of all of the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation programs: STAR (Success Through Awareness & Resistance) reaches more than 100,000 youths each year, delivering classroom programs that educate the County’s children about the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence.
The classes are co-taught throughout Los Angeles County schools by specially trained Sheriff’s Deputies and classroom teachers. STAR programs are at work in 370 schools within 50 school districts in 30 contract cities and the unincorporated areas of Los AngelesCounty.
The drug prevention classes have been operating in Los Angeles County schools since 1985, and are primarily geared toward the last two grade levels of elementary school and the first two grade levels of middle school, but are also offered to other grades according to requests from the school districts.
Lessons cover proven prevention techniques to empower youth to fight the lures of drug use and gang membership, while improving their self-esteem. Issues include: why people use drugs; how to overcome peer pressure; how to actually “say no”; and how to improve self-esteem. Instruction also covers gangs and the dangers associated with membership, anger management and cultural awareness.
In addition to classroom lessons, STAR also conducts parent education classes in an effort to educate families about the warning signs of drug usage so they may be better able to deal with a problem before it escalates.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Principles of Effectiveness and the “No Child Left Behind Act” require that schools provide scientifically based programs that have been proven to be effective in preventing tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, and violence. STAR deputies provide such lessons from research-validated model programs, including:
• Too Good for Drugs: This prevention program includes developmentally appropriate curriculum for each grade level from kindergarten through 8th grade, and there’s also a separate program available for high school students. The program incorporates role play, cooperative learning, games, small group activities and class discussions.
• Too Good for Violence: A companion program to Too Good For Drugs, this program reinforces and enhances social behaviors and skills, and is designed to improve children’s ability to steer clear of conflict and violence. The program is available for students in grades kindergarten through 12.
• Project ALERT: Created and tested by RAND, the nation’s leading drug policy think tank, Project ALERT is geared toward students in grades 7 and 8. It addresses the pro-drug mindset of modern teens and improves the chances that they will remain drug-free.
• Drugs, Pregnancy and You: This program addresses the problem of babies exposed to drugs by their mother’s substance abuse. The effort, which includes medical professionals, informs high school students about the dangers of drug exposure during pregnancy.
STAR establishes a lasting partnership between law enforcement and the community. Deputies regularly participate in community events and provide public speaking engagements for community, church and business groups upon request.
The STAR program is a template for other programs through the nation. STAR’s leadership is frequently contacted to train other law enforcement departments in STAR methods and curriculum.