‘Health Rocks’ a hands-on tool in fight against drugs
by By DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Apr 01, 2013 | 989 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TANYA SOUTHERLAND, Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors director, said props will be used to show children the effects of underage drinking and drug and tobacco use during the 4H Health Rocks healthy life series offered through the UT Extension program.
TANYA SOUTHERLAND, Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors director, said props will be used to show children the effects of underage drinking and drug and tobacco use during the 4H Health Rocks healthy life series offered through the UT Extension program.
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The war against drugs gained another foothold recently when UT Extension partnered with Bradley County’s local GRAAB coalition to sponsor the 4H healthy life series program Health Rocks.

“The programs I have been in contact with and researched are mainly instructor-led, where they are going to stand in front of [the class] for 30 to 40 minutes to discuss substance abuse,” said Tanya Southerland, Going Respectfully Against Addictive Behaviors director.

Health Rocks offers a hands-on approach. The program is designed to actively engage participants each session. Southerland said two levels will be taught: beginning and intermediate. Ten activities have been chosen for both levels.

Southerland and Lynne Middleton, the University of Tennessee’s 4-H Clubs Extension agent for Bradley County, received training from the coordinator of the program. Southerland will facilitate Health Rocks in Cleveland and Bradley County with the help of GRAAB volunteers.

“GRAAB’s goals fit exactly with what 4H Health Rocks does,” Southerland said. “We decided to facilitate the program with materials, support and training from the UT Extension office.”

According to the Health Rocks plan of action, Southerland and her team hope to reach at least 750 youth in the community. She said discussions are currently under way with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, the YMCA and various summer programs.

Schools have not been contacted yet so as not to disrupt classroom time.

The two groups are separated by age. Southerland said the beginning course is designed for ages 8-12, whereas the intermediate is for youth 12-16.

“We are reigniting the [drug, alcohol, addictive behaviors] conversation as they go into their middle and high school settings, which can either be a wonderful or stressful experience,” Southerland said. “The pressure may be there to turn to drugs.”

She said the program emphasizes conversations already taking place at school and between parents and their children.

“This program shows youth what health looks like. We will tell them, ‘If you potentially make the decision to smoke or engage in underage drinking, these are the consequences.’”

Continued Southerland, “This program focuses on team building, leadership, making the proper decisions and engaging the kids with the material.”

Almost $4,000 was awarded to Southerland and Middleton in grant money for the program. The grant covers the cost for supplies and start-up. It can be reapplied for each year.

Southerland said she anticipates the GRAAB coalition to continue the program even without the grant.

“We would just really have to find a supply chain for paper, glue and other resources,” Southerland said. “I am confident in the volunteers we are seeking out and who are signing up. They will stay in place so we can keep this up in the community.”

Roughly 10 volunteers have already agreed to help out with the youth-oriented program. Southerland said an additional 10 would ensure a team of two for every session.

She said she does not want instructors to feel overburdened if they have to teach and monitor materials simultaneously.

Students will engage in a variety of activities and topics to include (but not be limited to): 

n Is that a fact?

n Is it legal or illegal?

n Take a deep breath. In this activity, participants have three straws: large, small and a coffee stirrer. They are instructed to pinch their nose close and attempt to breathe through the straws for one minute.

This activity is designed to show them the breathing difficulties associated with a person who smokes.

n How to say “No!”

n Circle of Friends; and

n Messages in our community.

“Everything they learn from the first nine activities will be used in an opportunity to help GRAAB create some type of campaign,” Southerland said. “We will let the students really take hold and create something as a way to give back to the community.”

“It could be anything from a public service announcement to a billboard.”

Additional materials provided by GRAAB will supplement the materials. These will include displays of tar buildup after a year of smoking, “pickled livers,” the effects of drinking on the body, information on third-hand smoking and fatal vision glasses among others.

For more information, contact Tanya Southerland at the GRAAB Coalition by calling 472-5800.