By CLAUDIAN FRANCIS
‘iDecide’ began as an anti-drug and alcohol program based in the Washingtonville School District. The program was designed by former guidance counselor, Ms. Cooney, and is currently led by Mrs. Losquardo, the student assistance counselor at WMS, and Mr. Saladino, the district-wide social worker. Driven by the purpose of educating and enriching the youth in our community, the program has been running for over ten years. Since then, ‘iDecide’ has been continuously committed to instilling the value of living a responsible, drug-free lifestyle in elementary school students.
|CLAUDIAN FRANCIS FOR THE WIZARD WEEKLY|
Mr. Saladino, one of the program’s advisors, reflected on this shift in focus. He expressed that the pressures of smoking and drinking are not the primary issues affecting the youth today—that lies within social media. He noted, “Fifth graders are very different today than they were many years ago due to the pressures of social media and their peers. The whole culture of fifth grade is completely evolving.”
Many people have noticed that a growing number of fifth graders today have smart phones, and multiple social media accounts. As a result of this trend, they are exposed to a whole new medium of peer pressure. Even at ten or eleven years old, it is so important to teach children about responsibility while they are still young in order to help lead them into making smart decisions.
Every fifth grade student is given the opportunity to participate in the program during the school day. Originally, this program only took place at one of the school district’s elementary schools, Little Britain, considering Taft and Round Hill participated in the D.A.R.E. program. Due to the recent absence of D.A.R.E. and its success in Little Britain, iDecide has expanded to all three elementary schools including Round Hill and Taft.
Though the program is run by teachers, the lessons themselves are taught by select high school students interested in being role models and leaders for their community. There are about 64 students each year interested in the program and, from there, they disperse into groups to receive specific training. Through several engaging methods, the fifth graders are able to learn from iDecide mentors through presentations, skits and exercises.
The mentors are a vital element in the iDecide program; they must be willing to work hands on with the elementary students and be someone the kids can look up to. They should reflect what it truly means to be an inspiring mentor to the youth in the community and lead by example more than anything. Mr. Saladino noted that “the voice of the high school is beyond what you can imagine. The kids truly absorb everything and are mesmerized by the fact that high schoolers came to teach them.”
The kids involved in the iDecide program really look up to the mentors, and it is important for those who want to be a leader in the program, to keep in mind the responsibilities it takes in order to have a positive effect inside the classroom.
Just as the kids gain a lot from the program, the mentors gain a lot of experience and skills they can take with them outside the program. Both advisors noticed a change before and after the mentors participate in the program. The mentors gain immense experience in developing interpersonal skills, presentation skills, and teaching skills.
Students who are interested in mentoring should attend the general interest meeting on Dec. 7th in the auditorium. Those selected to participate in the program leave a great contribution to the community, and it’s an overall powerful way to get involved and make a difference.