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Tools for making the right decision

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 18, 2012

Kids have a lot of tough decisions to make, especially when they face peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol. A group of students at Joamie School in Iqaluit now have more tools to think such decisions through first, after graduating from the Aboriginal Shield program May 15.

"We want the kids to make healthy decisions," said RCMP Const. Angelique Dignard, who trains program facilitators. "They are exposed to so much. Kids in Nunavut see a lot of drug use, and they see a lot of violence. They are faced with very hard decisions to make at a very young age."

The program is based on two curricula for grades 5 and 6, and Grades 7 and 8, with each course consisting of 12 lessons that culminate in a graduation.

"It's good and fun," said Grade 5 student and program graduate Amina Geetah. "We learned never to do drugs or join gangs."

Dignard is happy the message is getting through.

"We know that if kids are using, it's easier for them to get addicted because of the way the brain develops," she said. "If we can either delay or eliminate the onset, meaning they don't start drinking alcohol until they're 19 or they don't use marijuana or they never use marijuana, we know we're going to have a healthier community."

By graduation, students have built their shield against addiction and negative influences, including gangs and celebrities.

"What protects them? What do they have in their life that helps them make good decisions?" Dignard said. "It could be their culture, their family or skills they have or a specific person they have in their life."

The primary tool given to students is a decision-making model called DRUMS.

"Determine the situation; Remember that you have choices; Understand the consequences; Make a decision based on which choice has the most positive consequences; and then you Self-evaluate - was it a good choice? Was it healthy? Would I be proud to tell my parents about it?"

The RCMP trains community members to facilitate the program, and only three communities - Sanikiluaq, Chesterfield Inlet and Grise Fiord - lack facilitators. The program is part of the government's suicide prevention strategy, so "there should be funding out there," if communities are looking to start it, Dignard said.

She's also looking for a trainer in Iqaluit now that Jennifer Blake, who started the school year teaching the program at Joamie before leaving Iqaluit's by-law office to work at the Nunavut Court of Justice, is no longer available.

"We really want to have pillars of the community, role models, people the kids can relate to, take on the program and deliver it year after year."

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