OCAY Tenafly | Tenafly Public Schools Receive Drug-Free Communities Grant
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Tenafly Public Schools Receive Drug-Free Communities Grant

Tenafly Public Schools Receive Drug-Free Communities Grant

From “Tiger Leaps,” a publication of Tenafly High School

Substance abuse continues to be a societal malady. News reports substantiate an increase in use nationwide. This problem is a non-discriminatory issue. It effects all communities, including Tenafly.

In December 2015, a Pride survey, a drug and alcohol use survey, was conducted among our 8th, 10th and 12th grade classes. The results of this survey indicated that not unlike many other suburban communities, Tenafly scored above the average use among teens in binge drinking—20% above that average among our senior class students. Based on this data and information received from CAP (our local Chemical Awareness Program) the Tenafly community sought to investigate ways to help mitigate substance abuse among our children. [An educational consulting] organization was subsequently engaged by the district to assist in writing a drug free grant, a DFC (Drug-Free Community) federal grant proposal, to fund initiatives to respond to those identified needs.

In December 2016 The Tenafly School District was awarded a DFC (Drug-Free Community) grant, a yearly sum of $125,000, to reduce substance use among our youth. In order to qualify for the grant, a group of twelve community-wide sectors were designated. In compliance with federal guidelines, the twelve identified people representing each sector currently make up the newly-formed coalition, named OCAY (Our Community Allied With Youth). Those twelve sectors approved by the federal grant include a health care professional, and one representative from each of the following groups: the media, local government, local business, the school, the student body, the parent body, a religious or fraternal organization, a civic volunteer organization, a youth-serving organization and another organization representing substance abuse. A few additional sectors have been included as well.

The ultimate goal of OCAY is to be one step ahead of this issue – the issue of substance abuse – through educational initiatives, by teaching community members ways of coping, by providing alternative outlets for at-risk youth and by keeping Tenafly constituents informed. One of OCAY’s first initiatives this year includes training. A kick-off event held most recently at Zingcycle included PSAs created by our student Teen Pep group which helped to introduce OCAY to the community. On 3/20 our elementary teachers participated in a yoga mindfulness workshop, a wellness technique provided by Zensational Kids. On 3/30, “Under Pressure”, an additional OCAY event, will feature keynote speaker and former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas who will share his harrowing story of painkiller addiction, near-suicide and eventual recovery. Following the presentation, a panel of experts will respond to questions about drug and alcohol addiction, underage drinking, binge drinking and abuse prevention.

Janet Gould, our THS SAC (Student Assistance Counselor), is the grant coordinator for OCAY; Susan Maher [of Just Inspire, Inc.] serves as the grant director. After twenty-one years of experience working with substance abuse reduction, Janet feels that working with this grant is a perfect fit for her by combining her extensive background with this new endeavor. Enthusiastically, Janet commented: “I’m excited to see what new initiatives we can bring to the community to keep all better informed – students, teacher, parents, all community members – to help reduce substance use. The more aware, prepared and armed you are, the better able you are to either prevent or help prevent substance abuse.”

We applaud OCAY for having made a great start to bring this issue to the forefront and attack it head on.