Editor’s note: Current PrEvents is produced by the Central Vermont New Directions Coalition as part of the Regional Prevention Partnership grant from the Vermont Department of Health.

The Basement Teen Center is happy to announce the addition of a new prevention education program geared toward promoting responsible behavior for youth. In January, teens at the Basement Teen Center attended the new Stay SMART class on Wednesdays and Thursdays after school.

Stay SMART (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) is a curriculum offered through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA) SMART Moves program.

This comprehensive curriculum focuses largely on preventing drug and alcohol use, but also teaches media literacy, bullying and negative peer pressure resistance, signs and skills of a healthy relationship, and some basic sex-ed topics.

The Basement Teen Center (BTC), located underneath City Hall in downtown Montpelier, has been offering a successful and well-attended comprehensive sex-ed program for many years and welcomes the opportunity to expand and diversify prevention programming offerings to community youth. The BTC, which is open to youth ages 12-18, believes that education and positive role modeling are vitally important to helping youth choose healthy behaviors. The BTC is a program of the Washington County Youth Service Bureau/Boys & Girls Club and is open Monday-Thursday from 2:00pm-6:00pm and on Fridays from 2:00pm-10:00pm. We strive to be a safe place for youth to gather and be their true selves. We offer both structured and unstructured opportunities for youth to socialize with their peers, explore new interests and engage in a variety of skill-building opportunities.

The Stay SMART curriculum works to equip youth with accurate information about the deleterious effects of drugs and alcohol and empowers them, and their peers, to resist using them. Stay SMART explores the decision-making process, and asks questions that help lead to an informed solution.

The five steps of the decision-making process ask: 1) what is the decision I have to make?; 2) what are my choices or options?; 3) what are the facts I need to know about each choice?; 4) what are the positive and negative consequences of each option and how would each choice affect my health, my goals and my personal or family’s values?; and 5) based on all the information I have, what is the best decision for me?

We find that when someone is given the tools to make a decision, and has correct information for that process, they are far more likely to choose a healthy behavior over an unhealthy one.

The Stay SMART curriculum also utilizes role-playing scenarios that allow youth to act out and receive feedback on situations they might face in real life. Being able to practice saying “no,” exercising the use of delay tactics, and creating space to consider each situation are all skills that can be adapted to many situations in life. Similar to the decision-making process, these skills equip youth for the wider world and the independent situations they will face.

Stay SMART is fun, interactive, and informative. One teen who took the course said “Stay SMART is a great class that discusses the costs of drugs and alcohol. It educates you further on positive life choices. The instructors are pretty chill while still covering the important subjects.”

Another teen said, “Stay Smart is a great space to discuss drugs in an informative way. To discuss how we can manage ourselves around other people doing drugs, when we’re uncomfortable. Stay SMART started to give us the tools to feel comfortable saying “No”. We need to learn about drugs and alcohol so we can know healthy alternatives to offer people.

The relaxed attitudes of the instructors, and the fact that we already know them, provide a really safe space to share our experiences without fear of judgment.” Another teen summed his experience up by saying, “I’ve learned a lot about avoiding taking drugs. It’s made me really think about the issues that teens in America face today.”

Stay SMART is offered in partnership with Central Vermont New Directions Coalition and the Regional Prevention Partnership funding from the Vermont Department of Health. The next Stay SMART course will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in May, from May 7 to May 30. Class is from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Basement Teen Center.

In addition, we offer youth who complete the course a $75 stipend. Please also look on our website, www.basementteencenter.org, for an online permission slip to fill out.

Paper permission slips can be picked up at the BTC any weekday from 2 to 6 p.m., and until as late as 10 p.m. on Fridays. For more information about the Basement Teen Center, Stay SMART or our other prevention programs, please contact Erica Guralnick at eguralnick@wcysb.org or 802-229-9151.

Paul Eley is former director of the Basement Teen Center and facilitated the winter Stay SMART session.

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View archived editions of Current PrEvents at cvndc.org

Central Vermont New Directions Coalition encourages healthy behavior and decreased substance misuse in communities throughout Washington County.

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